The first quarter of 2011 saw koryolink – Orascom’s North Korean operations – pass the half-million customer milestone with a year-on-year growth rate of 420%. The operator’s subscriber figures have leapt to 535,133 from 125,661 in the space of a year.
There are no other commercial mobile operators in North Korea, so koryolink’s figures are of great interest to many industry observers. The 2008 launch of the operations was a gamble for Orascom, but these latest figures demonstrate the enormous potential for growth in the infamously reclusive nation’s untapped market.
The country’s penetration rate is a mere 2% according to Orascom, and koryolink’s revenue indicates growing demand for mobile services, hitting US$25.8 million in the first quarter with earnings of US$22.6 million – a substantial margin of 87.6%.
The network predominantly focuses on population centres, with 341 base stations providing coverage to Pyongyang and 14 other major cities. In addition, 22 highways and 72 smaller towns are also covered by koryolink. Although this represents just 13.6% of North Korea’s area, a vast amount of the country’s population – 92% - were covered by the network at the close of the first quarter this year.