That’s great for North Koreans—at least those who can afford a mobile phone. And it’s even better for Egypt’s Orascom Telecom Media And Technology Holding, which owns 75% of the company and enjoys profit margins of 80%. North Koreans can’t do much with their phones: international calls are banned, internet access is limited to “a walled garden of scrubbed content taken from the real Internet”, and calls and texts are monitored by authorities.
Just who are these 2 million subscribers? The service is available in Pyongyang and another 115 cities, covering 14% of North Korea’s territory and 90% of its 24.4 million people. But in a country with average incomes of between $80 and $170 a month, only a fraction of North Koreans can afford it.