The GSMA Development Fund and Lighting Africa have launched Community Power from Mobile (CPM), an initiative to encourage mobile network operators (MNOs) and tower companies in developing countries to provide excess power generated by their base stations to local, off-grid communities.
(GSMA represents the interests of the mobile communications industry and has a Development Fund aimed at accelerating economic, social and environmental development through the use of mobile technology. Lighting Africa is a joint International Finance Corporation (IFC) and World Bank programme.)
Mobile operators are increasingly generating their own off-grid power for base stations. Often this is via diesel generators, but, as I’ve reported previously, they are increasingly using alternative energy sources such as solar and wind. The idea is that the off-grid base stations will use their excess power to charge a range of devices such as mobile handsets, lanterns and household batteries. Ultimately, though, the power can be used for businesses, clinics, vaccination refrigerators, schools and homes.
"The mobile industry is experiencing unprecedented infrastructure growth in off-grid regions in the developing world, where nearly 1.6 billion people live without access to the electricity grid, and we estimate that 485 million of those have access to mobile phone services," said Chris Locke, Managing Director, GSMA Development Fund. "As base stations are typically the only powered infrastructure within walking distance of the community, the Community Power from Mobile initiative can simultaneously improve the business case for off-grid telecoms and have significant societal impact."
CPM plans for pilot projects in East Africa and India to be launched in Q1 2011. GSMA members are planning to install 640,000 off-grid base stations by 2012 across the developing world in close proximity to off-grid populations. By mid-2012, CPM will have developed commercially viable business model(s) and assisted 10 MNOs to expand their rollouts across the developing world.
Not entirely altruistic, since more charged phones means more phone usage, but nevertheless a commendable way of using resources, particularly if it’s renewable power that would otherwise not be used.