Given that now more than ever aid organizations are relying on GPRS and 3G data cards to stay connected it is a bit disconcerting to see that both South Ossetia and Abkhazia have limited network coverage. As I mentioned before the GSM network coverage is lacking in South Ossetia. Now that the Russian Navy is steaming toward the coast of Abkhazia I should mention that it looks like GSM coverage is also poor in that region. With the overall picture looking grim for connectivity in the contested areas I sure hope that Georgia permits free use of satellite communications and that US export and Georgian import restrictions are minimal.
This is a fairly common problem that most aid agencies face. Telecommunications networks in the areas where aid agencies operate are often underdeveloped. Most likely this is because carriers are concerned about placing their gear in unstable regions where it could be easily lost or destroyed in the event of conflict. (Although one has to has to wonder if there are not sometimes other less savory reasons for not extending a network.) Thankfully, it looks like agencies are currently conducting their operations in more stable areas like those around Tblisi.
If anyone has any updates on this issue please be sure to comment.