PRESS RELEASE: VNL’s Solar Powered GSM Base Station Short-Listed at 2009 CTIA Emerging Technology Awards 25 Mar, 2009

March 25 2009 – VNL’s solar powered GSM system is one of just four entries short-listed in the “Green Network Hardware and Infrastructure category” category at the CTIA’s E-Tech awards.

VNL’s WorldGSM is the first solar powered GSM system specifically designed to enable mobile operators in the developing world to build networks in remote rural areas where ARPUs are low – and still make a profit.

Created in 2006, The CTIA E-Tech Awards programme is designed to give industry recognition and exposure to the best wireless products and services.

This year the awards attracted almost 300 entries which were reviewed by a panel of recognised members of the media, industry analysts and executives. Products are judged on innovation, functionality, technological importance, implementation and overall “wow” factor. Alcatel-Lucent, Motorola, Cisco, Qualcomm, NSN, Huawei and Samsung all have products short-listed in various categories. The solar powered chargers of Suntrica, a partner of VNL, has also been short-listed in the Green Network Hardware and Infrastructure category of the awards.

Winners will be announced and awarded at the show on April 2 (

For years, operators and GSM equipment vendors have struggled with the same problem: traditional GSM equipment is not designed for the unique challenges posed by remote rural areas. It costs too much, is too expensive to run, uses too much power and is too difficult to deploy (especially in areas with no electricity, poor roads and a lack of trained engineers).

VNL has spent the last five years re-engineering GSM to overcome these challenges. The highlights of VNL’s WorldGSM system:

  • Zero opex – made possible by major reductions in power consumption; allowing for the use of solar power as the single energy source. No diesel generators are required.
  • Low capex – priced at less than a quarter of traditional GSM base stations so profitable at very low densities and ARPU levels
  • Rural-optimized and easy to transport – compact and rugged; can even be transported on bullock carts.
  • Self-deploying and near-zero maintenance – easily installed and maintained by local workers.
  • Solar powered – needs only 50 – 120W per base station compared to the 3000W required for traditional GSM. Each site can be powered by a 2-8m² solar panel, rather than the 200 m² panel required to power a traditional GSM base station.

WorldGSM also opens up a new microtelecom business model – involving microfinance – where operators can partner with local entrepreneurs to accelerate deployment and reduce costs still further.

Anil Raj, VNL Board Member, says:

“The industry recognises that VNL has finally provided operators with a truly viable way to build profitable networks to serve rural communities with low ARPUs”.

Last November WorldGSM won the “best technology foresight” category at the World Communications Awards.

For more information, visit the company website at or contact VNL’s PR representative Bridget Fishleigh (+44 7946 342 903, or Skype: bridgetfishleigh).


VNL ( – the innovator of zero opex networks and pioneer of microtelecom – helps mobile operators reach rural markets profitably. The management team includes telecom industry veterans with vast experience in bringing products and services to entirely new markets. Its Chairman and founder, Rajiv Mehrotra, started the Shyam Group of companies and established some of the earliest GSM, CDMA and fixed networks in India serving millions of people today.


Telecom: India’s Knight in Shining Armor 5 Mar, 2009

“When the United States sneezes, the world catches a cold.” However, the telecom sector in India seems to have clearly defied this saying by witnessing robust growth in the past quarter.

Picture this, the total telecom subscriber base for India grew from 70.83 million in the first quarter of 2008 to 90.98 million in the second quarter. If you thought this was outstanding, there is more to come. Telecom companies added a record 15 million customers last month. The numbers can make anyone dizzy, especially at this time when nearly all industries across the world are witnessing a massive slowdown.

There is also clear evidence that revenue from telecom services is unlikely to be hurt by a recession. It is one of the fastest growing industries in the world and India is projected to become the second largest global telecom market by 2010. When closely looking at the other sectors in the country, telecom has clearly survived the present slowdown. Contrast this to sectors like real estate, automobiles and construction which have been hit hard. The commodity sector has also been hit despite the rising demand, and job buoyancy in the IT sector has decreased as well.

What’s more, 20 important deals worth $9.15 billion took place in India’s telecom sector this fiscal. The largest deal during the period was the buyout of a 26 percent stake in Tata Teleservices by Japanese company NTT DoCoMo Inc. for $2.7 billion. Other major deals included Italian multinational Telecom Italia’s acquisition of a 49 percent stake in Unitech Telecom for $2 billion and Dubai-based Emirates Telecommunications Corp’s (Etisalat) buyout of a 45 percent stake in Swan Telecom Pvt Ltd. for $900 million.

India: massive mobile industry growth

Telecom is clearly shining amidst the gloom. The Indian wireless industry, with a 32% penetration is the second largest after China in terms of subscribers at 325 million. Reliance Communications launched its GSM service in January and by the end of the month it had made a record by acquiring over half a million subscribers. The GSM subscriber base had touched 27.25 crore in January 2009. More recently, State owned MTNL’s launch of 3G services – ‘Jaadu’ – is all set to create further magic.

Predictably, this growth is now coming from the hugely untapped rural market consisting of villages and small towns. According to figures from Q2 2008, rural India has so far contributed a 71% growth in the telecom sector, while the remaining 29% growth came from urban India. The rural segment is witnessing a growth of 8-10% every month – giving a substantial boost to the telecom sector.

In the village of Karanehalli, about 40 miles from India’s high-tech capital of Bangalore, mobile phones have changed the way farmers do business. Here, a farmer commonly does not have a toilet for his home or a tractor for his field. But when a cellular tower was erected in his village, he splurged on a cell phone.

Here in Karanehalli, the old family tradition of crushing rice with a massive stone roller has not changed, but a mobile phone has certainly changed farming. Farmers use it to decide when to plant and harvest by calling other farmers, to get the best prices for rice, coconuts and jasmine by calling wholesalers, and to save hours of time waiting on the road for deliveries and pickups that rarely come on time. Farmers believe that their life is much better with the mobile phone, as they can be reached by anyone while they are working in the fields. In fact, a majority of the rural population thinks that they are in a better shape after the global crisis.

People who have observed this sector closely would mirror our views that the Indian telecom has stood strong against these tough times. In the next couple of months, India will rise into a towering position in terms of telecom subscriber base. VNL’s revolutionary WorldGSM™ system, which was recently showcased at MWC 2009 in Barcelona, is another momentous step in helping bridge the last mile and drive the mobile telecom success story.

Clearly, telecom is proving to be India’s knight in shining armor.

Further reading:

60%, 362 Million, and 2 Billion 3 Mar, 2009

6/10 of the world’s population have a cellphone. In India, there are now 362 million wireless subscribers. And still, billions of people across the world have yet to make a phone call.

Staggering figures, all of these. And what’s even more breathtaking is the growth rate. In 2002, 15% of the world’s population had a cellphone. India adds around 10 million new wireless subscribers every month, and there are hundreds of millions more to connect.

But there are clear signs of a global slowdown in mobile subscriber growth. And at the same time, mobile operators – especially in emerging markets like India – are struggling to cope with with decreasing ARPUs and increasing mobile usage.

The key here is spelled rural telecom. This is where the next billion mobile users reside – in remote rural areas where basic infrastructure ingredients like electricity and all-weather roads don’t exist. Where potential ARPUs are below $2, and where you don’t find an abundance of skilled telecom engineers.

The trick to reaching these rural markets is to overcome the obstacles of power, cost, remoteness and skills. Conventional mobile infrastructure equipment is not designed for the rural requirements. Fortunately, there’s now WorldGSM™ – VNL’s solar powered GSM system that can offer mobile services to areas where ARPUs are $2 or less.

Rural telecom holds the potential of not only helping mobile operators improve the bottom line, but to also assist rural communities in their economic and social development. An opportunity few should like to pass by.

Further reading:

VNL at Mobile World Congress 2009 2 Mar, 2009

Contrasting the buzz about high speed data, iPhone replicas, mobile TV, convergence and various value added services, VNL’s rural telecom initiative was received as an unusual and appreciated effort at this year’s congress.

Visitor numbers were notably lower than last year, likely due to the impact of the current global recession and the followed layoffs and operational reductions among mobile operators and vendors alike.

With a looming energy crisis around the corner – slightly curbed by recently lowered fuel prices but still on the center stage – it’s evident that mobile operators take energy consumption reduction efforts seriously. Many vendors were showcasing alternative power solutions, and new innovations in energy efficiency.

Bergey Windpower stood out as a prominent inventor within wind power solutions. And PowerOasis have created an innovative power management system – well suited for mobile operators that are looking at retro-fitting existing installations with renewable energy alternatives.

VNL\'s booth at Mobile World Congress 2009

VNL’s booth at MWC 2009

As far as the rural telecom space goes, VNL generated quite a bit of buzz by showcasing WorldGSM™ for the first time. Seeing the prominently located Village Site for the first time, some visitors thought we were solar panel vendors. As a regular reader of this blog, you know that this is far from the truth. The Village Site is a breakthrough in telecom innovation – the smallest, most energy efficient GSM base station ever built. So simple to deploy that local workers can install it in just six hours.

Visitors reacted very positively to the fact that WorldGSM™ is a complete GSM system – not just a conventional base station retrofitted with solar panels. And that it doesn’t compare with conventional GSM equipment but is entirely designed to extend existing networks – helping mobile operators expand their reach beyond what’s possible today.

Many were also pleasantly surprised to hear that a Village Site only needs about 50W of power – lightbulb wattage.

We’d like to thank our team and all our booth visitors, customers and partners for making VNL’s participation in MWC 2009 such a success! We look forward to interacting with all of you again at Communicasia 2009 in Singapore, 16th-19th of June.