Egypt does North Korea

According to this AP  story Egypt’s Orascom Telecom has been awarded exclusive rights to develop North Korea’s mobile phone network: 

Under the terms of the deal reached in January, Orascom will invest $400 million in network infrastructure over the first three years to develop the advanced cellular phone network in the country where private cell phone ownership is banned.

Orascom said it was the first foreign telecommunications company to be awarded a commercial telecommunications license in the country and would have exclusive rights to operate it for four years.

Shrouk Diab, a telecom industry analyst with Middle East investment bank Beltone Financial, said the company was in a position to tap into a market with no real mobile phone saturation.

This is a major coup for Orascom.    North Korea might have  no cell-phone use right now, but neither did Iraq in 2003 or Egypt around 1998 and its hard to find someone in either country who doesn’t have a mobile.  Given that they have four years without competition, this seems quite an oppurtunity. 


On another note, the NY Times has a recent  piece  on the Egyptian government’s attempt to try and prevent I-Phone from being sold in the country:  

Still, that was the condition put on the introduction of Apple’s iPhone3G in Egypt. The government demanded that Apple disable the phone’s global-positioning system, arguing that GPS is a military prerogative.

The company apparently complied, most likely taking a cue from the telecom companies that sell the phone there, said Ahmed Gabr, who runs a blog in Egypt,, and wrote about the iPhone’s release there. “The point is that using a GPS unit you can get accurate coordinates of any place and thus military bases and so on could be easily tagged,” he wrote in an e-mail message.

However, I question the extent to which this is an actual issue in Egypt:

Andrew Bossone, an American in Cairo who writes about technology, said that despite its expense, the iPhone in Egypt was “really popular — everyone knows the iPhone.” In addition to editing a technology magazine, he teaches at the American University in Cairo. “One of my students who comes from a wealthy family has the iPhone and one of my designers, who is not rich, bought it on credit,” he said.

Mr. Bossone says he thinks the government will relent on issues like GPS because it will side with business even at the expense of security concerns.

 Sure, rich businessmen and ex-pats might be affected, but for the vast majority of the population, there is not the slightest economic chance of being able to afford an I-Phone.   The vast majority of people don’t even know what an I-Phone is.

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