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Viettel considers future rollout in North Korea

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Viettel is considering expanding its presence to North Korea once international sanctions against the Asian country are lifted, according to its CEO.

Speaking to Reuters, Viettel CEO and president Le Dang Dung said Vietnam’s biggest telecoms company has been looking at a move into North Korea since 2010, when it sought permission to build a mobile network from the North Korean government.

Viettel already invested in Myanmar by launching Mytel with local partners, with Dung unveiling plans to double its five million-strong customer base there by the end of the year.

However, plans to invest in North Korea have been delayed due to international sanction against the reclusive company. Only Egypt’s Orascom Investment Holding operates in North Korea (or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) but it had to seek an exemption from the United Nations to continue operating its Koryolink network in September of last year.

“We first sought permission from North Korea to build a mobile network there in 2010,” said Dung. “But we’re still waiting for sanctions to be lifted and for the country to open its market to foreign investors.”

Viettel, which operates across 10 overseas markets with over 30 million subscribers outside of Vietnam, has also looked at setting up operations in other previously challenged markets such as Cuba and Venezuela. The company has more than 63 million subscribers in Vietnam and is currently developing a 5G network for the Asian country.