Indian mobile operator Idea Cellular, Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and the GSM Association's Development Fund have teamed up to develop biofuels as a source of power for wireless networks in rural India. In a pilot project in Pune, Maharashtra, the three organizations will begin using biofuels to power mobile base stations located beyond the reach of the electricity grid.
The first phase of the project, which is testing the feasibility of non-edible plant-based fuels, such as cotton and jatropha, is nearing completion. The second phase of the project will entail setting up a supply chain using locally grown crops to produce biodiesel to power between five and 10 base stations in the Maharashtra region. The goal is to have these base stations powered by cotton or jatropha by mid-2007.
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.
"Almost three-quarters of India's population lives in rural areas that often lack a reliable power supply," said Sanjeev Aga, Chairman of IDEA Cellular. "Biofuels will help us further extend mobile coverage into these areas bringing major economic and social benefits to rural communities."
The Indian government is encouraging companies in India to adopt biofuels and India has the potential to become a leading exponent of this alternative power source.
"The early adoption of biofuels will give Idea a pioneering role in the development of cost-effective and environmentally-sustainable mobile networks to serve rural communities," said Rob Conway, CEO of the GSMA, the global trade association for mobile operators. "We look forward to sharing the expertise and knowledge gained from this project with other mobile operators around the world."
"As GSM operators expand their network coverage into new areas, one of the biggest challenges is to overcome operational issues associated with the lack of basic infrastructure," added Mats Granryd, managing director, Ericsson India. "Through this initiative, we are also involving local communities in the wireless revolution and taking the benefits of technology to the masses."
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About the GSM Association and the Development Fund
The GSMA's Development Fund was set up in October 2005 to catalyse the role of mobile technology in social, economic and environmental development. Working with the mobile industry, the development community and governments, the Fund seeks to identify innovative ideas for development that are scalable and sustainable on a global level. By focusing on practical implementation, the Development Fund and its partners create unique knowledge and experience of the role and potential of mobile technology in development.
The GSM Association (GSMA) is the global trade association representing 700 GSM mobile phone operators across 217 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 percent of the world's mobile phone users.