MALAWI - SOLAR POWER FOR BETTER RURAL CELLPHONE ACCESS

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Siemens Communications has developed a solar-powered base station for cellular network operators operating in remote areas that lack electricity supplies. The first base station, in Chiringa, Malawi, has been supplied to Celtel, which operates in 13 African countries.

Siemens account manager Hannes Moolman says cellular base stations were usually powered from the electricity grid with a diesel-powered generator as a back-up in case of power cuts.

The diesel generators have high capital and operational overheads that can make it uneconomical to provide cellular coverage in remote regions.

"Mobile networks have to be highly reliable to allow operators to deliver an appropriate level of service to their customers," he says. The solar-powered base station does not rely on either mains power or a diesel generator for back-up, so each site will be significantly cheaper to operate and maintain.

The design is also environmentally friendly. Above all, the solar powered sites give operators the freedom to place sites wherever they want, rather than where the local infrastructure is available, says Moolman.

Business Day