GigaOm has written an article about the targeting of telecommunication systems in Gaza. PalTel, the local provider, has lost 90% of it’s infrastructure. From the article:
Israel’s strikes into Gaza continue apace, and news stories are pointing out that the conflict is being fought online as well — Twitter, YouTube and hacking web sites are playing a role, as ways to get information out of the country and dispense propaganda. There’s no need to drop pamphlets when you can post video of soldiers destroying a government building on YouTube or send threatening texts. The delivery mechanism is new, but propaganda isn’t.
Neither are the efforts to take out the delivery mechanism and means of communications. However, with Hamas using the same technology as citizens, the scope of such destruction is much wider. On Sunday, Palestinian mobile operator Paltel said that 90 percent of its infrastrucutre in Gaza was down, potentially cutting off communications via cell phone. Warning that the Gaza strip could be “disconnected from the outside world,” Paltel issued a statement that read…
Posted in News
Tagged Gaza, GSM
This could be a game changer. A German company has developed a SIM card with an integrated A-GPS receiver. Navigadget has the story:
German smartcard maker Sagem Orga just announced a partnership with BlueSky Positioning to integrate A-GPS receiver on regular SIM cards.
The proprietary new approach incorporates a highly accurate GPS receiver and an antenna into the SIM card, enabling network providers to deploy both legally-mandated and commercial applications for all mobile phones, with no need for software or hardware changes. To make positioning even more accurate and user friendly, the A-GPS SIM uses assisted GPS data.
Posted in Gadgets
Tagged GPS, GSM
A friend of mine who is currently in Tbilisi was kind enough to answer a few questions for me. To summarize:
- The mobile phone networks are working fine in Tbilisi.
- Magticom is the preferred network provider as it has the best coverage.
- No news on how the networks are functioning in South Ossetia.
- My friend is currently using an “impressively fast” landline for INTERNET that is faster than the WiFi back home. Skype, Outlook, etc. all work fine. Skype video is exceptionally good.
- Things are returning to normal in Tbilisi and seem to be getting back to the way they were before the conflict.
I didn’t want to bother with asking too many questions straight out of the gate as time spent answering questions means time away from the real work. I’ll see if I can collect some more info once things slow down a bit.
So, if you are headed to Tbilisi it looks like you are not going to have too much trouble connecting.
(Please note that Skype was mentioned. It is the unheralded champion of the humanitarian community and has become one of the most important pieces of humanitarian kit out there today.)
NPR’s Ivan Watson reports that Russian planes are continually bombing cell phone towers in an effort to knock out telecommunications networks and what’s left of the GSM network in the country only works sporadically. Also, he reports that the INTERNET in Georgia has been compromised by a cyberattack. This was reported earlier in the day by WIRED’s Danger Room. [Click here to listen to the NPR audio file.]
With an already limited GSM network in South Ossetia and Abkhazia now compromised by bomb attacks it seems that folks heading into Georgia have very little option other than Thuraya and Iridium satellite phones. While networks may work from time to time I am not sure anyone is going to want to rely on them as their only source of communication. With the INTERNET also under assault aid teams will also be relying on Inmarsat’s BGAN and the new ThurayaIP.
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.
After a little digging over at GSM World I came up with a coverage map for Geocell which maintains, I am guessing, Georgia’s largest GSM network. Compare that map to the BBC’s map of South Ossetia below and it looks to me like it is Thuraya time.
It appears that there is almost no coverage to the northwest of Tskhinvali. Not exactly good news for organizations moving into the area to provide assistance. If anyone has info regarding this issue I’d like to post an update as soon as possible.
Not long ago I attended O’Reilly’s FooCamp and had the opportunity to fiddle with OpenMoko’s FreeRunner. A dozen of these nifty little gems littered a table in the MAKE workspace. I was rushing between events but I managed to squeeze in a few minutes of playtime.
While the FreeRunner has taken some hits for various shortcomings I have to say I was fairly impressed after only a few minutes of messing with it. It has good weight and feel and I had no problem navigating through the screens. While I did not have time to make a call I noticed that a number of participants had managed to do so.
I would love to see the FreeRunner develop into a viable smartphone alternative, much the same way Ubuntu has as an OS, but for right now I think it is pretty much a geek only tool. For more info on this device check out Sam Churchill’s write up over at dailywireless.org. Today Gizmodo announced that OpenMoko is releasing the chip schematics so that you can build your own.