VNL deploys solar base stations

VNL has announced the first commercial deployment of its award-winning zero-opex solar-powered GSM system. The system is designed to help mobile operators build sustainable – and profitable – networks in remote rural areas where ARPUs are less than $2 a month.

Developing Telecoms reported last year on VNL’s WorldGSM system, a solar-powered end-to-end GSM network aimed at rural markets with an unreliable – or nonexistent – electricity supply. Now, VNL’s WorldGSM has been installed in more than 50 villages in rural Rajasthan - India’s largest state – marking the first time that these poor rural communities have had network coverage.

Each of the 50 villages now has its own WorldGSM base station, which is designed for both rooftop and ground deployment. The system consists of a nine-metre pole with an Omni antenna on top, two solar panels measuring two square metres, a solar-powered battery back-up and the VNL BlueBoxBTS – a complete one or two TRX BTS. Current GSM base stations are powered by 200m² solar panels.

An entire village site requires just 50 watts to function, including transmission – traditional GSM requires 3000 watts. Unlike traditional GSM base stations, the village site needs no shelter, air conditioning, mains power, generator or diesel fuel.

WorldGSM integrates with existing GSM macro networks and extends them into previously unreachable rural areas. It is 3GPP compliant and compatible with all standard handsets, and also features:

  • Zero opex – solar power is the only energy source due to reduced power consumption;
  • Low capex – cheaper than traditional base stations, so profitable in areas with low population density and ARPU;
  • Rural optimised – compact, durable and easy to transport; and
  • Self-deploying and near-zero maintenance – can be deployed in six hours by two untrained people.

WorldGSM won the “best technology foresight” category at last year’s World Communications Awards and came second in the “Green Network Hardware and Infrastructure” category at the 2009 CTIA E-Tech Awards. Last month, VNL was named the most innovative telecoms company – and third most innovative company – in the world by the Wall Street Journal’s annual Technology Innovation Awards.

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