N. Korea mobile phone users top 1.5 million

Posted at 11/21/12 9:26 AM

BEIJING - Mobile phone subscribers in North Korea currently total more than 1.5 million, a sharp increase from 950,000 at the end of last year, Egyptian business tycoon Naguib Sawiris who controls Koryolink, the only cellphone operator in the country, has said.

With North Korea's population standing at around 24 million, this means that roughly one in 16 people currently have a mobile phone. The total is projected to reach 1.7 million at the end of this year, Sawiris said in an email exchange recently published online by U.S. magazine Forbes.

Sawiris owns a majority stake in Koryolink via his Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Holding S.A.E., with the remainder held by the North Koran government. The 3G carrier has been operating since December 2008.

Koryolink is granted the exclusive right to operate the mobile business for North Koreans until next month but has received written confirmation that no foreign investors will be allowed in the mobile business until 2015, according to Sawiris.