Smoke signals 18 Jun, 2008

Besides providing mobile coverage, traditional base stations also do a good job of providing noise and air pollution.

The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) recently inspected a large number of Delhi’s 6,000+ base station sites. Times Of India reported on their findings today:

The committee found out that several diesel generator sets installed at these towers did not have the compulsory acoustic enclosures to curb noise pollution. Even the stack height of the DG sets was not high enough, and this resulted in increased air pollution.”

Based on the results of their inspection, DPCC have sent notices ot the service providers and have given them a deadline of three weeks to straighten things out.

Aside from the noise and air pollution, many urban base stations are configured for maximum power output rather than power efficiency. The main reason for this being the enormous uptake in mobile services, with India adding more than 2 million new subscribers every week.

This means that these base stations are contributing to very high amounts of radio frequency radiation. Even though researchers have yet to agree on whether radio frequencies of these strengths are harmful or not, it still seems like the most reasonable way forward would be to re-invent technology and network architecture to deploy new networks that are based on current power contraints, usage requirements and number of subscribers.

It is simply a matter of available technology, time and cost.

For rural areas, the scenario is quite different. These are low-density networks (as in few subscribers per square kilometre) where people may only be willing to pay $3, or less, every month for basic phone services. This creates a whole new set of requirements for mobile network infrastructure. Technology that provides connectivity to these areas needs to be low power, low cost and low maintenance.

Fortunately for the world’s billions of unconnected, there’s now WorldGSM™ from VNL which helps mobile operators reach rural areas profitably.

Getting the next billion mobile users connected is a challenge with large social and environmental dividends. And it’s a crucial effort to advance both economic and social development. Not to mention that mobile operators need to find new growth markets. The rural opportunity is where the future is.

It’s quite different from the urban challenge of providing coverage to a rapidly expanding user base that demands both higher data speeds and lower costs.

Looking ahead a couple of years, networks will most likely converge. The shared utopian vision for many mobile operators and equipment vendors is “the ubiquitous network”. Where data speeds are amazing, and where all devices can connect seamlessly.

Meanwhile, let’s reduce urban emissions and connect all the people who have yet to make a phonecall.


Shocking images of unsustainability 20 Mar, 2008

We know we consume. We know others consume. But, it is nearly impossible to visualize what that joint consumption looks like as a whole or what kind of an impact it has on our environment.

An artist in Seattle, Chris Jordan, has found a shocking way to depict the sheer immensity of our consumption. The pictures are somehow pleasing, even beautiful, but the devil is in the details.A closer look reveals horrific sights and what a disaster we are creating. The figures are mind-bending:

  • 1,000,000 plastic cups on airline flights in the US every 6 hours
  • 410,000 paper cups in the US every 15 minutes
  • 2,000,000 plastic beverage bottles in the US every 5 minutes
  • 8,000,000 harvested trees in the US every month to make mail order catalogues
  • 11,000 jet trails for commercial flights in the US every 8 hours
  • 426,000 cell phones retired in the US every day
  • 1,140,000 brown paper supermarket bags the US every hour
  • 3,600,000 new SUVs in the US in 2004
  • 60,000 plastic bags in the US every 5 seconds
  • 170,000 disposable Energizer batteries produced every 15 minutes
  • 15,000,000 million sheets, used in the US every 5 minutes
  • 106,000 aluminum cans in the US every 30 seconds.

Now, see what it looks like. It’s scary.