The GSM Association, Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and multinational telecommunications group MTN have teamed up to establish biofuels as an alternative source of power for wireless networks in the developing world. The three organizations have set up a pioneering project in Nigeria to demonstrate the potential of biofuels to replace diesel as a source of power for mobile base stations located beyond the reach of the electricity grid.
Biodiesel has several important advantages over conventional diesel as a power source for base stations. Biodiesel can be produced locally, creating employment in rural areas, while reducing the need for transportation, related logistics and security. Biodiesel has a much lower impact on the environment than conventional diesel. The cleaner burning fuel results in fewer site visits and also extends the life of the base station generator, reducing operators' costs.
"The early adoption of biofuel-powered mobile networks would place Africa at the forefront of a new wave of innovation that is making mobile communications affordable and accessible across the developing world," said Karel Pienaar, CTIO of the MTN Group.
In a pilot project, supported by expertise and funding from the GSMA's Development Fund, Ericsson and MTN are setting up a pilot biodiesel-powered base station solution in Lagos and will later deploy biodiesel-fueled base stations in rural regions of south eastern and south western Nigeria. The three organizations are setting up a supply chain designed to benefit the local population by sourcing a variety of locally-produced crops and processing them into biofuel. Groundnuts, pumpkin seeds, jatropha, and palm oil will be used in the initial pilot tests.
"The extension of mobile networks into rural areas is vital to boost the social and economic welfare of the developing world," said Rob Conway, CEO of the GSMA, the global trade association for mobile operators. "Biofuels have the potential to make that happen by giving mobile operators local access to a commercially and environmentally sustainable power supply."
The GSMA and Ericsson will draw on the findings of the pilot to help operators across the developing world determine whether they can use biodiesel to power their networks in rural areas.
"In order to reach the next billion mobile users, we need to reach lower-spending segments of the population profitably," said Bert Nordberg, Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Ericsson. "By using locally-produced biofuels, we could significantly lower the cost of operating mobile base stations in rural areas."
Notes to editors:
The pilot project is the first time that biofuels has been used as a power source for radio base stations.
Only 25 percent of Nigeria is connected to the electricity grid. MTN has invested in Y'ellowWatts, its own power system made up of an extensive grid of generators designed to keep the entire MTN network at an optimum level of performance.
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About the GSM Association and Development Fund
The GSM Association (GSMA) is the global trade association representing more than 690 GSM mobile phone operators across 214 countries of the world. In addition, more than 180 manufacturers and suppliers support the Association's initiatives as key partners.
The primary goals of the GSMA are to ensure mobile phones and wireless services work globally and are easily accessible, enhancing their value to individual customers and national economies, while creating new business opportunities for operators and their suppliers. The Association's members serve more than two billion customers - 82% of the world's mobile phone users.
The GSMA's Development Fund was set up in October 2005 to provide consulting support to innovative pilot projects that use mobile technology to boost social, economic and environmental welfare in developing countries. Working together with mobile operators, the Fund supports easily-replicable and sustainable projects that have the potential to be widely-deployed. For more information please visit: http://www.gsmworld.com/digitaldivide/developmentfund/index.shtml
About the MTN Group
Launched in 1994, the MTN Group is a multinational telecommunications group, operating in 21 countries in Africa and the Middle East. The MTN Group is listed on the JSE Securities Exchange under the share code: "MTN". As at 30 June 2006, MTN recorded more than 31 million subscribers across its operations, including those of the newly acquired Investcom LLC. In August 2006, the MTN Group launched operations in the Islamic Republic of Iran following the successful purchase of a 49 percent shareholding in Irancell.
The MTN Group operates in Botswana, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Republic of Congo (Congo Brazzaville), Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda and Zambia. The acquisition of Investcom adds the following countries of operation to MTN's portfolio - Afghanistan, Benin, Cyprus, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Republic, Liberia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.