Wednesday, 16 January 2013 00:00 | James Barton
Kenya’s market-leading operator is expanding coverage to ever-more-remote areas of the country with solar-powered base stations. Safaricom is deploying VNL’s WorldGSM base stations in Bungule and Jora in the Taita Taveta county of Kenya.
Mr. Mutai, Network Engineering Head for Safaricom, said that it was the first-of-its-kind solar/battery hybrid powered GSM solution with such a high level of integration in a village site.
Located in Kenya’s coastal region nearly 360 kms from the capital Nairobi, Bungule is sparsely populated and fairly underdeveloped. It falls under the Voi constituency of Taita Taveta County, and lies on the edge of the Tsavo National Park. In the past, subscribers of Safaricom in Bungule and Jora had to go quite a distance from their homes – up to the highway in many cases – in search of a signal for their phone.
During these excursions there was a very real threat of encountering dangerous wild animals. Faced with these challenges quite a few users became dormant. The solar-powered base stations therefore facilitate connections to the outside world, and have already attracted almost 500 active subscribers.
So far VNL has deployed 1 Rural RBTS site (2/2/2 TRX) and 1 Village VBTS (2TRX) in Bungule. Both these sites work independently of the power grid and require no diesel generator backup.
These completely solar-powered base stations provide GSM services with autonomy of 3 days. The VNL NOC in Nairobi reports that the VNL VBTS is picking 70-85 Erlang traffic and the overall traffic (RBTS +VBTS), which is around 160-180 Erlang per day.
The sites are Broadband ready and in the next phase Safaricom will plan Wi-Fi access in the local area.
Similar sites deployed by VNL elsewhere in Africa have yielded savings of around US $24,000 per site each year.
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