With the altitude of 2200 meters Ushguli is referred as the highest inhabited village in Europe. It is located at the feet of Shkhara, one of the highest Caucasian summits.
Unlike many other villages high in the mountains it is still inhabited. Up to 70 families live in the area. There is a public school and an outpatient clinic in the village. The superb location of Ushguli and the unique lifestyle of the people in the village make this a popular and interesting destination to visit.
Ushguli deserves attention of central and local governments as well as private sector. Road rehabilitation from Mestia to Ushguli has already started and it will solve most of the problems of local population. One of the unique projects implemented in the village was “MagtiSat’s Digital Broadcast in every house of Ushguli”. MagtiSat has provided digital satellite television signal to each household of the Georgian village Ushguli via SES’s satellite. The project was implemented during the terrestrial digitalization of Georgia in 2015 and its initiator was SES, world-leading satellite operator which provides satellite communications services to broadcasters, content and internet service providers, mobile and fixed network operators, governments and institutions worldwide. Terrestrial digitalization was not an easy process for Georgia especially for its mountainous regions. But with this unique one-time project SES with the help of MagtiSat managed to digitize a rural mountainous village Ushguli just in a couple of days.
Terrestrial digitalization was an obligatory of Georgia in 2015. TV digitalization should have been finished by 2015 not only in Georgia but in the whole Europe according to the decision of International Telecommunication Union and EU. Moving to the digital TV for Georgia was one more step toward developing of the country and its general digitalization. Before it, at the beginning of 2012 one significant step toward digitalization in Georgia was already made. In January 2012 the first-ever domestic digital satellite TV in Georgia – MagtiSat – was launched. It happened after the long-term agreement was signed between Magticom, the Georgian telecommunication company and SES, one of the world’s largest satellite operators.
“The village is significantly developing in the last period. The project of the road rehabilitation is priceless. There is only 45 km from Mestia to Ushguli, but because of the bad road driving the distance takes more than 2 hours. This is a huge problem for us. Rehabilitation of the road has already started and we hope it will be finished soon. Good road will help local population significantly. As a result communication between Ushguli and other world will be simplified. Better road will somehow support improvement of medical service,” – says Beso Charkseliani, representative of local governor in Ushguli.
“Education system and medical service is really improving the village. We have a public school here but we don’t have teachers of mathematics, physics and sports. We haven’t had an outpatient clinic for a long period, which has been opened, while ago. But its service is not enough for us and it needs to be much improved. Getting perfect first aid service is not available here. Implementing modern technologies is essential for local population as well. For example, Project of Magticom and SES was very important in the history of Ushguli. All the necessary equipment for digital satellite broadcasting and installations were provided by MagtiSat. The population of the village will enjoy 25-channel package free of charge for the unlimited period of time,” – added Charkseliani.
Young generation better realize need of modern telecommunication systems in the village. 28 years old Bakar Nijaradze daily work in fields with his family. Agriculture as well as tourism is main source of income for the family.
“It’s summer now. There are lots of people in the village. Joy and happiness is in any point of Ushguli. Winter is totally different as there are not much people in Ushguli. They stay at home during most time of the day watching TV and waiting for summer. TV and satellite broadcasting is very important for the village. Via TV we won’t lose daily contact with the world,” – says Bakar Nijaradze.
Local population learns a lot from the information received by TV. They better learn hospitality standards, watch how developed resorts host tourists and try to do the same. On the other hand, they get information about foreign visitors’ needs and requirements. As a result, young generation of Ushguli gets more and more interested in tourism. They are deeply involved in the ongoing process of tourism development in the village, do their best to have high standard guest houses and offer perfect service to the tourists. Analyzing tourism potential and existing opportunities Rusudan Ratiani decided to get high education in tourism. After graduating Gori State Teaching University she went back to her home village and now is operating a guest house with her parents, 5 sisters and 2 brothers.
“Tourism is developing very fast in Svaneti. Therefore I decided to get education in this field. Tourists especially like towers, local cuisine and handicrafts. Number of tourist is increasing from year to year. Tourism has become main source of income of local people. It is hard to do any other job in Ushguli. There is nothing to entertain for young generation as well. We watch TV when we have free time. Main source of information is TV. I personally love music and therefore often watch musical programs. I often sing with my sisters and brothers as well,” says Rusudan Ratiani, 22 years old.
40 years old Laerti Charkseliani lives in Ushguli with his wife and two kids. Their café is one of the best in Usghuli and is often full of tourists. Charkseliani says that increased number of tourist is a result of the road rehabilitation to Mestia and developed telecommunication in Ushguli.
“Ushguli honestly deserves attention. The village is among UNESCO World Heritage Monuments. Tendency of the development of the village is clear. But much more is needed. You will often hear the phrase here – summer is good, but what should we do in winter? Local population mostly stays at home and enjoys watching TV during winter days. There is nothing else to do in winter. I am glad that we have free TV broadcasting. This is not a place to make surprised by internet, TV or smartphone. But still it is very pleasant for us that someone cares about us in this regard. Development of telecommunication is essential for developing our tourism potential,” – explains Laerti Charkseliani.
This is how people live in Ushguli. Local population host tourists in summer and watch TV in winter. But it is the most important that they don’t lose the hope… Hope that everything will be changed in a better way, all started projects will be finished successfully and the highest inhabited settlement in the Europe will be developed as much as it deserves.
In 2015 Georgian mobile and telecommunication company MagtiCom with the support of global satellite operator SES has launched the project “MagtiSat’s Digital Broadcast in every house of Ushguli”. MagtiSat has provided digital satellite television signal to each household of the Georgian village Ushguli via SES’s ASTRA 5B satellite in 31.5 degrees East. All the necessary equipment for digital satellite broadcasting and installations were provided by MagtiSat free of charge. The population of the village will enjoy 19-channel “G” package free of charge for the unlimited period of time. As a result, the village of Ushguli is 100% digitalized at the moment and all families can enjoy the superior quality of the satellite signal. The population of the village enjoys with 25-channel “G” package free of charge for the unlimited period of time.