As I was preparing to Chair a session on Green ICT at ITU Asia Telecom’08, I ran across a press release from this company VNL which has been designed ground up to run a village base station on the power needed for a light bulb, powered solely by solar panels and battery backup (up to 72 hours worth).

This truly caught my attention especially since it was innovation from an Indian company. I truly believe that “necessity is the mother of invention” and this was a good example of this. India alone uses more than 2 billion litres of diesel to power mobile base stations as there are either non-existent or unreliable electricity grids. Since diesel is expensive and transport and theft of diesel makes it even more expensive for telcos to deploy solutions to rural areas, so there is a clear need for an alternative solution.

The low power and ability to use renewable energy however is not the only reason I was impressed with what VNL had to offer. They had used an “IKEA model” to deploy these systems, i.e. they were broken down into 8 boxes that can be transported using an ox cart where there are no roads or transport, and on arrival can be put together by 2 illiterate persons over 6 hours using diagrams of “how to”. Line of sight is established using a beeping technology  and a compass to get the south facing side for the solar panels.

This easy to deploy and maintain component makes VNL’s solutions superior to any other low power devices I have seen on the marketplace. Aside from low ARPUs from rural telecoms, many operators do not go to these regions even when offered funds from Universal Service Funds as it is hard to deploy and maintain as well. VNL’s solution enables a local entrepreneur to deploy and work out arrangements with the telcos–so additional revenues without the headaches in principle. VNL has deployed this solution in many villages across India, and I visited one of these sites when filming the Green Planet documentary with TELECOMTV.

To learn more, check out www.vnl.in

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