Igor Shchegolev, the Russian Minister of Communications and Mass Media, has reportedly signed a deal relating to future cooperation in the field of telecommunications with breakaway republic South Ossetia. Shchegolev, along with his South Ossetian counterpart Georgy Kabisov, is believed to have inked the agreement during talks held at the inaugural South Ossetia Business Forum, held in the republic’s capital of Tskhinvali. The pair agreed terms relating to five separate aspects of the communications sector, including technical regulations and the distribution of radio frequencies. The two nations have signed a total of 56 agreements across all spheres, with another 40 believed to be pending. TeleGeography notes that South Ossetia first declared its independence from Georgia in 1990, with the Georgian government responding abolishing South Ossetia’s autonomy, and trying to retake the region by force. After running battles in 1991/92 and 2004, the conflict finally came to a head in 2008 with the so-called ‘Five Day War’ between Russia and Georgia, which resulted in Ossetian separatists and Russian troops gaining de facto control of the territory. To date the only countries to recognise the republic’s independence are Russia, Nicaragua and Venezuela, as well as the tiny Pacific nations of Nauru, Vanuatu and Tuvalu. In the past Moscow’s decision to back South Ossetia has been widely condemned by other nations.
Meanwhile, in related news Ostelekom, a regional subsidiary of national wireless operator MegaFon, has confirmed the launch of its 3G network in South Ossetia. The announcement follows MegaFon’s investment of over RUB300 million (USD9.3 million) in the region during 2010/11. The third-generation network will offer maximum downlink transmission speeds of 3.6Mbps to around 70% of the population at launch. Aslan Kutarov, general director of Ostelekom, commented: ‘Our subscribers receive free access to the internet in South Ossetia, in major population centres with high population density –Tskhinvali, Java, Znaur, Tbet and Hvtse. In 2012 we will expand 3G, covering small settlements, which will include the connection of new network facilities’. As at end-June 2011 MegaFon reported around 52,000 subscribers in South Ossetia.