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GSMA to fund alternative fuel base stations

Wind, solar, chip fat?

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The GSM Association has announced a target of 118,000 base stations to be powered by wind, solar and biofuels by 2012 - but in the developing world, not here.

Adding alternative energy sources to 118K base stations would save 2.5 billion litres of diesel a year, according to the GSMA. 25 Mobile operators will be provided with expertise and a new web site to help them fit half of their new base stations with green energy sources.

That's quite a jump from the 1,500 renewables-powered base stations already in operation, several of which are already being supported by the GSMA.

The GSMA spends most of its time trying to block government regulation, or trying to ensure that such regulation benefits its members, but the group also has a development fund that is more concerned with spreading the good (GSM) word to 'markets of unlimited potential'*.

Existing deployments include Idea Cellular, India, which is using a mix of diesel and waste cooking oil to power 350 base stations, while Digicel is using a combination of wind and solar energy to power 17 base stations on the the Pacific island of Vanuatu - both projects having benefited from the GSMA Development Fund.

The GSMA estimates that an alternative energy supply adds about 50 per cent to the cost of a base station, and they are generally fitted alongside the usual usual diesel generator. Operators won't invest in the technology unless they can see a return in two years - so the GSMA wants to drive down costs by providing finance, if necessary, as well as expertise and experience.

Such alternatives aren't going to compete with on-grid electricity for a long time, but they can provide an alternative where grid electricity is too unreliable or simply unavailable - not to mention that diesel thieves are a lot less likely to make off with a windmill in dead of night. ®

* Yes, they used to be the "third world", then the "developing world", but now Microsoft has a department devoted to "markets of unlimited potential", so we felt obliged to follow suit.

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