By 2013, Ericsson anticipates that there will be some 6.5 billion mobile phone subscriptions in the world, compared to today's 3.7 billion. About 90 percent of growth is expected to come from developing markets where more than half of the population lives outside city limits. To build mobile networks in rural areas with no or unreliable power grid means that the power challenge must be solved.
As mobile telephony reaches billions of new subscribers, areas in the world that have never had access to communication services will soon be part of the connected society. Having reliable access to cost-effective energy supplies has long been a stumbling block for telecom operators seeking to offer services outside major population centers. Building out electricity grids has not only been prohibitive from a cost perspective, but often impossible due to geographic and environmental constraints.
Ericsson, whose technology has already provided billions of people with mobile telephony, is meeting this challenge with a combination of energy-efficient products and emphasis on network energy optimization. This supports telecom operators to develop and deliver affordable and sustainable communications services to the emerging markets in a way that makes business profitable for the operators.
Wind power is one example of an alternative energy resource for powering mobile networks located beyond the electricity grid. In 2007, Ericsson implemented biofuel as an alternative energy resource, and in 2000 Ericsson was the first telecom player to deploy a solar solution to power a Moroccan operator's mobile network.
"Being at the forefront of innovation is crucial for Ericsson to stay in its leading market position," says Ulf Ewaldsson, Vice President and Head of Product Area Radio at Ericsson. "I am, of course, proud to be part of a company that is behind technologies like Bluetooth, setting the standard for mobile technology GSM that half of the world's population are using to make phone calls, as well as leading the development of the fourth generation of mobile communication. But one must also have in mind how to run mobile networks so that all of us can have access to communication services, no matter whether you live in a big developed city or in a remote village in a country with poor infrastructure."
As energy-related expenditures, including cost for diesel, can be as high as 50 percent of total network operating costs in some markets, the next step after getting infrastructure in place is to ensure cost-efficient day-to-day operations.
"One example of what we have done to be able to offer mobile telephony to the billions of people living outside city limits, is the introduction of a unique hybrid solution where we use submarine batteries that can be recharged over and over again to power a mobile network," Ewaldsson says. "This solution saves approximately 10 000 liters of diesel per radio site per year, which is 40 to 50 percent of the diesel needed. This adds up to large quantities of fuel that can be saved in a mobile network with hundreds or thousands of diesel powered radio sites."
Developing green solutions to build and power mobile networks holds the key to reaching billions of people that have never had access to communication services. And the benefits of green solutions are twofold - not only does this mean telecom operators can build and operate mobile networks cost efficiently, the environment is also a winner as less fossil fuel is needed to run the mobile networks.