North Korea - Telecoms Market Overview and Statistics

Executive summary

Foreign owners lose control of North Korea’s largest mobile operator

North Korea possesses an underdeveloped yet growing market which has markedly improved in recent years as noted by growing mobile penetration. North Korea’s telecoms infrastructure developed largely through foreign investment, most significantly by Thai investors and more recently, Egyptian telecoms investment company Orascom Telecom Holdings.

Communications with the outside world is restricted as everyday citizens are only able to receive news through government controlled channels such as TV and radio broadcasting as well as the government controlled Intranet. Technological improvements are evident, most notably through the introduction of high definition TV (HDTV) digital broadcasting in 2015.

North Korea has taken steps towards developing a digital economy as part of efforts to modernize its economy as well as a means to generate export income, especially in the field of IT services. Specific initiatives include domestic production of computers, mobile phones and a Linux operating system. E-education initiatives have been launched to improve access to learning while e-commerce sites have launched to improve convenience in ordering products and services.

North Korea’s mobile market is a major driver of telecoms infrastructure development. A 3G only network has been deployed providing almost universal population coverage, one of few countries in the world that is able to claim that its entire mobile market is comprised of 3G subscribers. However Orascom, the majority owner of North Korean mobile operator Koryolink, revealed in late-2015 it had effectively lost control of its North Korean operations.

Key developments:

  • 3G subscribers continue to grow at a steady pace;
  • North Korea launches HDTV broadcasts;
  • E-commerce and e-education initiatives have been launched;
  • OTMT loses control of Koryolink.

Companies mentioned in this report:

North Korea Post and Telecommunications Corp (NKPTC); NEAT&T; SUN NET; Loxley Pacific; Lancelot Holdings; Orascom, Star JV.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Executive summary
  • 2. Key statistics
    • 2.1 Country overview
    • 2.2 Relationship with South Korea and the world
  • 3. North Korea’s telecommunications market
    • 3.1 Background of North Korea’s telecom market
    • 3.2 Overview of North Korea’s telecom market
  • 4. Regulatory environment
  • 5. Network operators
    • 5.1 Lancelot Holdings
    • 5.2 Loxley Pacific (Loxpac)
    • 5.3 Shin Satellite Corp
  • 6. Telecommunications infrastructure
    • 6.1 National telecom network
      • 6.1.1 North-South connections
    • 6.2 International infrastructure
      • 6.2.1 Satellite networks
    • 6.3 Kwangmyongsong 3-2 Satellite
  • 7. Internet market
    • 7.1 Background
    • 7.2 Kwangmyong
    • 7.3 Internet crashes – December 2014
    • 7.4 Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
    • 7.5 Revival of the .kp domain
    • 7.6 Social networking North Korean style - Uriminzokkiri
      • 7.6.1 Twitter
      • 7.6.2 Facebook
      • 7.6.3 YouTube
    • 7.7 North Korea on Google Maps
  • 8. Digital economy
    • 8.1 Korea Computing Centre (KCC)
    • 8.2 Personal computer production
    • 8.3 E-education
    • 8.4 E-commerce and E-payments
  • 9. Broadcasting market
    • 9.1 Overview
    • 9.2 TV stations
    • 9.3 Satellite TV
  • 10. Mobile communications
    • 10.1 Overview of North Korea’s mobile market
      • 10.1.1 Mobile phone costs
    • 10.2 Mobile phone statistics
    • 10.3 Mobile infrastructure
      • 10.3.1 3G
    • 10.4 Mobile Operators
      • 10.4.1 Sunnet
      • 10.4.2 Koryolink
      • 10.4.3 Byol
    • 10.5 Mobile handsets
      • 10.5.1 Fines for using unofficial Chinese mobile phones
    • 10.6 North Korea’s answer to the tablet
    • 10.7 Mobile Content and applications
  • 11. Related reports
  • Table 1 – Country statistics North Korea – 2014
  • Table 2 – Telephone network statistics – 2016
  • Table 3 – Mobile statistics – 2016
  • Table 4 – National telecommunications authority
  • Table 5 – North Korea GDP growth rates – 1990; 1995; 2000 – 2012
  • Table 6 – Fixed lines in service and teledensity – 1990; 2000 - 2016
  • Table 7 – North Korea mobile subscribers – 2003; 2008 – 2017
  • Table 8 – Koryolink revenue, EBITDA, CAPEX – 2012 - 2015
  • Table 9 – Koryolink ARPU – 2012 - 2014
  • Table 10 – Koryolink quarterly revenue, EBITDA, EBITDA margin, capex – 2009 - 2011
  • Table 11 – Koryolink quarterly subscribers, MoU and ARPU – 2009 – 2014
  • Chart 1 - North Korea mobile subscribers and penetration - 2008 - 2017
  • Exhibit 1 – Map of North Korea

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