Georgia’s main economic activities include cultivation of agricultural products, as well as mining, and producing alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages in small-scale industries. The country imports nearly all of its needed supplies of natural gas and oil products. Telecommunications has recently become one of the fastest growing sectors, reaching 7% of the Georgian GDP.
The Internet penetration rate reached 68% by the end of 2018. The mobile segment of the market has been booming in the last years. Fixed-line subscriptions were only 14 per 100, but cellular telephone networks now cover the entire country. Mobile-cellular teledensity is roughly 116 per 100 persons, and intercity facilities include a fiber-optic line between the capital, T’bilisi, and K’ut’aisi.
Georgia’s telecommunications market has improved considerably in the last years and should continue this trend, with rising revenues and increased investment in infrastructure. The GSM players operating in the mobile market are Geocell (TeliaSonera), GSM Magticom (Magti), and the latest entrant, Beeline (VimpelCom). Telenet provides wireless local loop services, Internet access services and holds CDMA 450 and CDMA 800 licences. While the incumbent operator had a 44.1% share of the Georgian fixed broadband sector at the end of March 2015, Caucasus Online had 30.8% of the market; and the next largest player was Akhali Kselebi (including Akhteli) with a 10.8% share of the country’s fixed broadband users. The Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) was established in 2000 as an independent regulatory body to license and oversee the operations of telecommunication and broadcasting companies.
Georgia’s economy sustained GDP growth of more than 10% in 2006-07, based on strong inflows of foreign investment, remittances, and robust government spending. However, GDP growth slowed following the August 2008 conflict with Russia, and sank to negative 4% in 2009 as foreign direct investment and workers’ remittances declined in the wake of the global financial crisis. The economy rebounded in the period 2010-17, but FDI inflows, the engine of Georgian economic growth prior to the 2008 conflict, have not recovered fully. Unemployment remains persistently high.
The country is pinning its hopes for faster growth on a continued effort to build up infrastructure, enhance support for entrepreneurship, simplify regulations, and improve professional education, in order to attract foreign investment and boost employment, with a focus on transportation projects, tourism, hydropower, and agriculture. Georgia had historically suffered from a chronic failure to collect tax revenues; however, since 2004 the government has simplified the tax code, increased tax enforcement, and cracked down on petty corruption, leading to higher revenues. The government has received high marks from the World Bank for improvements in business transparency. In mid-2014, Georgia concluded an association agreement with the EU, paving the way to free trade and visa-free travel. In 2017, Georgia signed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China as part of Tbilisi’s efforts to diversify its economic ties. Georgia is seeking to develop its Black Sea ports to further facilitate East-West trade.
Silknet, formerly United Telecom Georgia (UTG), is the incumbent operator in Georgia. The company had a 44.1% share of the Georgian fixed broadband sector at the end of March 2015. Now Silknet is planning merger with Caucasus Online, the second largest ISP, in a move that is regarded with concern by the market regulator. The watchdog has launched an investigation to assess the potential impact that the proposed transaction would have on both the retail and wholesale internet access markets.