Only 45% has internet in Georgia
13 February, 2014
Only 45% has internet in Georgia
Less than half the Georgian population enjoys access to the internet – and that is the biggest challenge to regions, according to a report released by the Institute of Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) on 7 February. Although Georgia is the leader in development of electronic governance in the region, it still suffers from imbalance in internet access between urban and rural areas, IDFI researcher Teona Turashvili stated. According to International Telecommunication Union calculations, only 45% of the Georgian population
gets the internet.
Taking statistics of the Georgian National Communication Commission (GNCC), a communication regulatory body of Georgia, IDFI analyzed the data on cable, wireless and mobile internet coverage in Georgia. This revealed that cable internet consumption is consistently on an increase since 2010. It nearly doubled, from 252,131 subscribers in 2010 to 434,969 by October 2013. However, the cable internet market witnessed no significant changes within the last two years.
The negative factor of Georgian cable internet coverage is the imparity between urban and rural areas. Tbilisi, covering up to 63% of the total consumer market, is the leader with 273,396 consumers. The Imereti region is next with 42,198, while only 2381 consumers enjoy internet in Guria, and 311 in the Georgian highlands of Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti.
Two industry leaders, Caucasus Online and Silknet, control the market. Caucasus Online leads the Tbilisi market with 41%, while Silknet holds 40% there. The latter is the leader in the regions, with 212,000 subscribers, while Caucasus Online follows with 139,936. Twenty-four more operators serve 82,392 subscribers in the regions, and 18 internet providers (besides Caucasus and Silknet) operate in Tbilisi.
As to internet technology, wireless is acknowledged as the fastest growing in Georgia. It is mainly developing in regions where cable internet is less available. According to 2013 data of GNCC, 87,882 subscribers use wireless technology.
While Tbilisi has the highest number of cable internet consumers in the country, it takes sixth place in wireless internet after the regions, particularly Kvemo Kartli and Imereti. In cable technology, fiber-optic accounts for 51% (221,170 subscribers), slightly exceeding the 49% of DSL (212,968 subscribers).
To correct the imbalance of internet access in regions, IDFI thinks mobile or cell internet development can be a solution. The number of cell internet subscribers exceeds 1.2 million; 51% of this is provided by Geocell, while Magti has 30%.
The trend of slowing cable internet coverage, according to the IDFI analyst, may have two causes: low demand and less state attention to sustainable development in this matter. Turashvili believes that the state and market operators have to cooperate to solve the poor internet access problem in regions. Merab Janiashvili, an economic analyst with the Association of Young Financiers and Businessmen of Georgia, believes that the state cannot encourage internet consumption artificially in regions unless the economy is developed there.
“Internet access is low in regions because demand is low and the state cannot create the demand with incentives to internet technology,” he said. “Companies do not go there because it is not profitable. But if the state encourages economic development of underdeveloped regions via tax waivers or any other preferences to attract businesses there, then the demand for the internet may increase automatically, since no business today can develop without the internet.”

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