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*Cheap and green: biofuels for mobile phone networks

*Biofuels could soon be powering mobile phone networks

Abiose Adelaja
16 February 2007
Source: SciDev.Net

Mobile phone companies in Nigeria and India aim to boost rural
development and expand their mobile networks by using biofuels as a
cheap and green way to power networks.

Access to electricity in rural areas is typically poor. By producing
biofuel energy from organic matter, rural communities could sell it to
the mobile phone companies, powering base stations that receive and
transmit wireless signals.

Two pilot schemes are currently underway in Lagos, Nigeria and Pune,
India, to try powering GSM networks with biofuels. GSM is a digital
standard for mobile phones used by more than two billion people

The schemes are receiving sponsorship from the GSM Association
Development Fund and mobile phone company Ericsson. Local providers
MTN ? Nigeria's largest mobile phone provider ? and Idea Cellular in
India are also involved.

"Apart from our desire to expand our coverage, biofuel produces
economic empowerment, because lack of connectivity is directly related
to economic impoverishment," said Prashanth Donepudi, project manager
of the GSM Association Development Fund in Nigeria.

In Lagos, soy oil biodiesel is being used to power a suburban base
station owned by MTN in a six-month trial. The study in Pune will use
cotton and the hedge plant jatropha, according to a BBC report.

"We are trying biofuels because we feel it will save us the
operational cost of reaching rural areas," said Victor Oduguwa, who
heads MTN's Design and Value Engineering section

He said biofuels also offered a form of "social responsibility"
because the people are economically empowered in the process.

Using renewable energy for mobile networks is not a new concept to
Africa. Namibia will soon be the first country in the world to power
mobile networks using wind and solar energy.

The base, owned by mobile phone company MTC Namibia, will serve 1,500
villagers, reported the BBC.

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