CAIRO: Egypt s Orascom Telecom will launch 3G mobile telephone service in North Korea on Monday, the company said, taking to the next step an ambitious multimillion dollar project in the communist nation.
Under the terms of the deal reached in January, Orascom will invest $400 million in network infrastructure and license fees over the first three years to develop the advanced cellular phone network. Orascom said it was the first foreign telecommunications company to be awarded a commercial telecommunications license in the country.
Orascom Telecom spokeswoman Rasha Mohamed confirmed in an e-mail on Sunday that the service will be launched on Monday. Additional details were not immediately available.
But Orascom has said it intends to cover the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, and most of the major cities during the first year of service.
In May, the company said it had successfully completed the first call on the network.
It was not clear what restrictions, if any, would be imposed on the network, which also provides data capabilities as well as phone services. Ordinary North Koreans are banned from having cellular phones, and the government maintains strict controls over Internet access.
The launch comes as North Korea, one of the world s poorest countries, is pushing hard to give its capital city a facelift – a makeover coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the communist nation founded in September 1948.
The 25-year-license to operate in the reclusive state was granted to Orascom subsidiary CHEO Technology JV Co., which is 75 percent owned by the Egyptian telecommunications firm. The remaining stake is held by state-owned Korea Post and Telecommunications Corp.
Orascom currently operates GSM networks in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.