The GSMA’s Green Power for Mobile program is painting a picture for the mobile industry that highlights as much as US$5.3 billions in potential revenue and energy savings through the use of alternative energy solutions for mobile consumers and network infrastructure.
First off, this latest report says that a whopping 485 people in the world have mobile phones, but no easily accessible power outlet to charge them, hence limiting their ability to use their phones, resulting in billions – US$2.3 billion to be exact – of loss revenue for their mobile operators.
The number is calculated by taking population and electricity grid penetration numbers from the UN and the combining that with mobile penetration rates from GSMA’s own Wireless Intelligence data base. The result – nearly a half billion users, or some 11.25% of the total 4.3 billion mobile user base in the world today – have a phone, but electricity.
According to David Taverner, manager of the GSMA’s Green Power for Mobile program, users are now walking sometimes miles to get to charging stations operated by small entrepreneurs with diesel generators or battery banks, to get their phones charged up. Heavy users charge their phones from these chargers once a day, while even low end users are charging making trip on average once a week.
But even with these ad hoc charging solutions, these users could be using their phones more, according to the report, US$2.3 billion more. That’s the number the report comes up with when it takes the number of off-grid phone owners (485 million) and assuming a 10% increase in their ARPU (estimated at US$4/month). The 10% number is further derived by a case study of Digicell in Papua New Guinea, who actually did rolled out solar chargers, 350,000 of them, to its user base. What Digicell found was that following the distribution of the solar chargers – given free to the users – the average ARPU from these users increased by 10%-14%.
The report recommends operators adopt some kind of strategy to promote the use of either solar powered handsets, or solar power chargers, so their subscribers can continue to make and receive calls.
Here at Green Telecom Live, we are looking forward to the completely zero emission (operations only) mobile network. With the advent of alternative energy powered base stations, there’s no reason why communications networks cannot operate completely off grid. Imagine that!
RENEWABLE ENERGY FOR NETWORKS
In addition to more revenue from subscribers using renewable energy charging solutions, Taverner also notes that the GSMA is working with mobile operators to adopt renewable energy for their networks, with a target of saving some US$2-US$3 billion in diesel costs by 2012.
“What we do is to help operators to move to more energy efficient base stations and alternative energy base stations,” he said. “We’ve set a target for the industry to deploy in excess of 118,000 renewable base stations by 2012. To give you an idea of the growth that is required to do that, we estimated last year that there’s probably 1,000 – 2,000 renewable base stations – so we are talking about hundreds of percentage of growth to reach that target. If that target is achieved, the main benefit in terms of diesel consumption – about US$2-US$3 billion dollars of diesel consumption will be saved.”
According to Taverner, the GSMA’s Green Power Program is now actively liaising with alternative energy solutions providers to establish a closer working relationship between the two industries. He revealed to Green Telecom Live that the program has already conducted multiple meetings, where alternative energy solutions providers have been invited to present to GSMA’s members – mainly mobile operators – on potential solutions that can power network infrastructure without the electrical grid.
“This is something that we noticed very early when we set up the program – telecoms is one industry and previously, renewable energy, was a different industry. But now you have a development in telecoms where the two industries are merging. What we did to facilitate that merge is that we have a working group, with an initial group of 35 operators, and we bring vendors from the renewable energy space into meetings to make presentations about their products,” he said. “With the working group, we try to bring all those people together into one room.”