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PRESS RELEASE: Zero Opex Network Unveiled

First commercially viable solar powered GSM system for rural areas with ARPUs of less than $2 showcased at Mobile World Congress 2009, Barcelona.

BARCELONA, FEBRUARY 17, 2009 – VNL today unveils WorldGSM™, the world’s first solar powered GSM system specifically designed to enable mobile operators in the developing world reach remote rural areas – and still make a profit.

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 result is WorldGSM – the world’s first truly environmentally sustainable mobile network.

The use of solar power not only drastically reduces operating expenses for mobile operators but also contributes to a much lower environmental impact. VNL estimates that mobile networks in India alone require two billion litres of diesel every year to power back-up diesel generators.

VNL’s WorldGSM uses solar power as its single energy source – no diesel generators required. It is made for simple delivery and deployment by local workers – all resulting in zero opex, dramatically lower capex and near zero maintenance.

Sharifah Amirah of Frost & Sullivan says;

“VNL has opened up a whole new area of subscriber and revenue growth for operators. They’ve built a commercially viable GSM system to service remote, low-density rural areas.”

WorldGSM won the “best technology foresight” category at the recent World Communications Awards. The system will be commercially available later this year.


WorldGSM overcomes the many barriers to serving rural markets without making any unnecessary compromises. The system integrates with existing GSM macro networks and extends them into previously unreachable rural areas. It is 3GPP compliant and compatible with all standard handsets. The highlights:

  • 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;

“We have overcome all the challenges of providing GSM networks in rural areas. Now operators have a truly viable way to build profitable networks to connect the next billion mobile users.”

In some cases, VNL will bundle its networks with other mobile equipment, such as phones and solar-powered chargers, that offer a missing link in the rural telecom ecosystem. Jouko Häyrynen, CEO of the Finnish innovator Suntrica (, says;

“We share a common vision with VNL: to change the way the world powers growth and development, and to do it affordably. WorldGSM is an exciting business case.”

WorldGSM can be seen at VNL’s booth – Hall 2, booth 2B69 – at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week.

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 the country that serve millions of people today.

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