Operators have always claimed that GSM deployment in rural areas is difficult and not sustainable. The reasons are attributed mostly to lack of power. And in the midst of all the heat and dust about nuclear energy, and an increasing focus on green technology solutions, the news that a solar powered GSM platform has been launched is a big relief. At a time when mobile telecom networks in India gulp down 2 bn liters of diesel every year to run back-up diesel generators, solar powered GSM should be welcomed by operators.
Manufacturer VNL claims that their solar powered GSM platform, WorldGSM, needs between 50 Watt and 120 Watt of power to operate. Compared to this, a regular GSM base station requires 3,000 Watt to run. WorldGSM is entirely powered by solar energy with a 72-hour battery back-up that can also be charged by solar power. Plus, this system also includes a rural-optimized mobile switching center and a compact base station controller-making WorldGSM a complete, end-to-end GSM network.
The features claimed are unbelievable. Its price is less than a quarter of traditional GSM base stations and profitable at very low densities and subscriber revenue. It is very easy to transport-an entire WorldGSM base station packs into two carts and can be transported over rough terrain in something as simple as a bullock cart. It is self-deploying and requires near-zero maintenance. Also, it can be assembled and activated by non-engineers.
It has also been learnt that telecom infrastructure player Quippo will undertake trials on WorldGSM in some rural areas in India. If successful, Quippo could roll out a complete commercial network that will be fully integrated with the networks of existing operators. And given a rapidly growing market like India, where the next phase of growth is semi-urban, rural, and remote areas, a solar powered GSM platform solution will open up new commercial and profitable opportunities, believe experts.
If the claims of this Sweden-based manufacturer, VNL, are real, I would even go the extent of saying that the government and the DoT should take note of this development and provide incentives to operators that use solar powered platforms. Obviously the commercial viability as well as the performance of this platform will have to be checked first.
Author: Ibrahim Ahamad