Indian mobile operator Idea Cellular, Ericsson and the GSM Association's Development Fund today announced that four mobile base stations powered by locally produced biofuels have extended Idea's commercial mobile network in rural India.
All four locations in the state of Maharashtra are greenfield sites that have not previously had access to a mobile network and are located in areas with unreliable power supply.
The live mobile base stations follow the initial feasibility assessment of different sources of oil for biodiesel production and establishment of a local supply chain.
Biodiesel has several advantages over conventional diesel as a power source for base stations. An important factor is that it is produced locally, creating employment in rural areas while reducing the need for transportation. Biodiesel has a much lower impact on the environment than conventional diesel. The cleaner burning renewable fuel also requires fewer site visits and also extends the life of the base station generator, reducing operator costs.
The biodiesel for the base stations initially comes from fish oil and waste vegetable oil - essentially used-frying oils from local restaurants. In the long term, locally produced jatropha oil will be used. The selected sources for biodiesel have low environmental impact and follow responsible environmental practices for biodiesel production.
Sanjeev Aga, Managing Director, IDEA Cellular, says: "The use of biofuels is helping us to bring the social and economical benefits that access to communication bring to rural communities in India."
Tom Phillips, Chief Government and Regulatory Affairs Officer of the GSMA, the global trade association for mobile operators, says: "Exploring alternative power solutions, such as biofuels, is key to the development of cost-effective ways to extend mobile networks to the 20% of the world's population that don't have coverage today."
Mats Granryd, President of Ericsson India, says: "Solutions to solve the power challenges associated with expanding rural coverage will help operators reach people beyond the electricity grid. We are pleased to pioneer biofuel into the telecom industry."
The Indian government is encouraging local companies to adopt biofuels, so Idea Cellular is in the position of becoming a leading exponent of this alternative power source.