Start up VNL, which developed the solar-powered WorldGSM base station for rural villages, will announced the official launch of the system at a press conference today at Singapore’s CommunicAsia trade show.
Rajiv Mehrotra, founder, CEO and chairman of VNL, told Green Telecom yesterday that the system will provide remote villages with GSM coverage through a model that encourages local entrepreneurs while alleviating the capex and opex obligations for operators.
Each of the WorldGSM nodes, including the antenna, solar panels and battery, will cost US$15,000, and ships in six boxes, Mehrotra said, adding that two people can assemble the site in a matter of hours. The solar panels are guaranteed for 15 years, while the battery is guarantee for 4 years. Each nodes of the system offers a GSM coverage radius of about 2 kilometers.
According to Mehrotra, the entire system draws only 40 watts of power, allowing the company to use much smaller and cost effective solar panels. The low power consumption also means that it can operate much longer even without the sun.
“One, two, three days without the sun, it’s no problem,” he said. “Rain, storm, no problem.”
The pricing of the system also offers an attractive ROI for operators. The WorldGSM is designed to be rolled out by franchises of mobile operators in remote regions. The idea behind WorldGSM is to allow local residents in rural areas to purchase the deal and become the local franchise of mobile operators – a concept VNL calls, microtelecom. These entrepreneurs build and operate the infrastructure, which is then connected to a mobile operator’s network. The franchise owners then take responsibility for sale and distribution of the operator’s service locally.
This allows the operators to offload the capex and opex of operating these remote systems to the local franchise, all the while gaining the user base, traffic and revenue in new areas.
The price of WorldGSM also presents attractive ROIs for the local entrepreneurs. At US$15,000, a village with a population of 2,000 users generating ARPU of US$2/month will offer a payback on investment of less than six months.
At the same time, the company has been approached by many Asian operators to provide its low-cost, zero-opex base station to extend their coverage to remote areas. Each of the WorldGSM nodes will cost US$15,000 and will provide coverage to an area with a radius of about 2 kilometers, Mehrotra said.