“I feel like I’m human now, not cut-off from my world, no longer isolated” were the words of Ram Kishan, in a village of Alwar district ,commenting on the power of his mobile phone, in an interview for the ITU-UN film “ICT’s for a Better Future”. His village was connected to the BSNL Rajasthan network through VNL’s solar powered GSM and Broadband solution as part of a pilot project for India’s USO Fund. You can see the film clip of Ram Kishan’s village and VNL’s solar powered WorldGSM™ base station here:
Mobile phones are driving economic growth in the developing world. But that’s not all – networks in developing countries also have valuable lessons to offer the West. Read more in this interesting article by Suzie Christodulu in cellular-news.
News from VNL – Main Hall, Stand 3
AMERICAS COM, JUNE 30, 2009 – VNL today announced that WorldGSM, the world’s first solar powered GSM system specifically designed for remote rural areas in South America and throughout the world, is now commercially available.
VNL’s WorldGSM enables mobile operators to reach remote rural areas where ARPUs are less than $2 a month – 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 5 years re-engineering GSM to overcome these challenges. The result is WorldGSM – the world’s first truly environmentally sustainable mobile network.
Trials in remote villages in Rajasthan, the largest state in India, have recently finished. Many people made their first ever phone calls thanks to VNL.
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. 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.
WorldGSM won the “best technology foresight” category at last year’s World Communications Awards and was runner up in the “Green Network Hardware and Infrastructure” category at the 2009 CTIA Wireless E-Tech Awards.
<h4>OVERCOMING BARRIERS TO RURAL MARKETS</h4>
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:
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.
Rajiv Mehrotra, VNL’s Chairman, CEO and founder, says;
“We have overcome 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.”
WorldGSM can be seen at VNL’s booth (stand 3) at AmericasCOM in Rio de Janeiro 30 June – 1 July.
For more information, visit www.vnl.in or contact VNL’s PR representatives Rafael Junquera (+1-305-735-8095, email@example.com or Skype: rafaeljunquera) or Juan Gimenez (+54 11 4772 8777, firstname.lastname@example.org or Skype: tucholin.
Leading the charge is Indian vendor VNL, which yesterday launched what it claims is the world’s first 100% solar-powered GSM base station designed specifically for off-grid remote areas. VNL chairman and CEO Rajiv Mehrotra told Show Daily that its WorldGSM(tm) BTS requires almost no opex. The solar panels, which have a life expectancy of 20 years, need to be dusted once a week in most areas.
VNL has developed a solar-powered WorldGSM base station for rural villages officially launched at Singapore’s CommunicAsia trade show yesterday. Rajiv Mehrotra, founder, CEO and chairman of VNL, told Comms Day that the system will provide remote villages with GSM coverage through a model that encourages local entrepreneurs while alleviating the capex and opex obligations for operators.
How do you charge your mobile phone when there’s no electricity grid? A hand cranked dynamo may be the simplest, and most cost-efficient, answer.
Solio’s product is definitely at the high-end of the spectrum and retails for around $100, which may be a bit steep for a rural citizen. Suntrica’s product range is a bit different both in regards to price and product range, and they will soon publicize more information about the products. We’ll return with a new report on Suntrica then.
On a related note: if you have soldering skills and a DIY mindset, you can even make your own solar charger.
Solar chargers can be used collectively in a village - shared between a group of people. So can hand-cranked chargers, of course. And they do retail for quite a bit less than many of their solar peers. VNL-er Nikhil Swadia has done some research on what’s available.
The Chinese manufacturer Wenzhou Kaishi Electric offers a couple of different hand-cranked phone chargers. Cranking at 150 rpm/for 1 min provides enough power for 8 minutes of talk time. The chargers come with plugs for charging most common brands of mobile phones. It costs $1.8 in large quantities, most likely translating to a retail price point of around $10.
Clearly, there are many options for a villager to charge a mobile phone. And these portable chargers – both solar and hand-cranked – are quite convenient for anyone outside the range of the electricity grid.
As solar power technology matures further, and as adoption of mobile communication in rural communities increases, the field of portable chargers will evolve quickly. We’re tracking the development right here on the blog.
In the past year, oil prices have risen more than 100% and are currently at $140.73. According to most of the energy experts the situation is only going to get worse.
The price of oil is predicted to go as high as US$200/barrel in the next 12-18 months.
Our earlier findings have indicated that power and fuel constitute the biggest chunk of operating costs for mobile operators – The power and fuel challenge.
Soaring energy prices and falling ARPU put mobile network operators in a difficult position. It’s definitely the right time for mobile network operators to start looking at renewable energy sources as an option to run their networks and reduce their operating expenditure.
There has been some recent buzz around the rural opportunity. And about the need for sustainable energy sources.
Everyone wants to get connected. Mobile operators want to reach new growth markets. And oil is, after all, going extinct.
On the 24th of June, The Economic Times wrote that:
“The government is considering a proposal by which companies using solar or biogas power for running the rural telecom infrastructure would be subsidised.”
India’s Department of Telecom (DoT) has, according to Economic Times, around Rs 15,000 crore of unutilised money under the USOF (Universal Services Obligation Fund) scheme and is finding ways to spend it.
Unstrung Insider recently released the report “Mobile Networks Go Green: The Lean Base Station” which examines the opportunities for using sustainable energy sources to power radio sites in remote areas.
John Blau, research analyst at Unstrung, recently underlined the importance of new energy sources:
“The growth in mobile networks over the next few years will come from emerging markets. Of the more than 1.5 billion new subscribers from emerging markets by 2015, nearly two thirds live in remote parts of the world, where access to electric grids isn’t guaranteed.”
The most common way to reach areas where there’s no power grid is to deploy conventional base stations with diesel generators. And even in emerging market cities, the power grid is often so unreliable that diesel generators have to run several hours every day to keep the mobile network running.
Unstrung estimates that around 1 million new base stations will be needed to extend connectivity to rural areas in emerging markets.
The good news is spelled WorldGSM™ – VNL’s complete GSM system that helps mobile operators reach rural markets profitably.
We also have a new white paper in the works about the mobile energy crisis. It’s coming soon, and will explain mobile operator’s power woes further.
It will also provide ideas for how the mobile industry can move forward sustainably. Which is, actually, the only way forward.
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