Motorola has signed an agreement with the GSM Association (GSMA) and MTC Namibia to conduct a trial for wind and solar power systems to support the African operator’s remote GSM cell sites. This is the first customer-based trial globally and is expected to run from April 2007 to July 2007.
The trial involves the installation of the Motorola wind and solar solution at an operational MTC Namibia cell site where the solution will become the electrical power source for the site. The cell site will remain a part of MTC Namibia’s current wireless network and continue to carry the same levels of traffic.
This "green" solution provides a feasible and efficient alternative to using fuel generators when a main grid connection is not available; or it will take months or years to connect; or where electricity tariffs are expected to rise sharply in the next few years.
Once installed, the cost of power is almost zero, and wind and solar powered cell sites require minimal maintenance unlike a diesel driven generator which generally requires, at a minimum, a monthly visit for refueling and they can also be heavily prone to theft. This translates into added savings in operating expenditure (OPEX), a key factor to emerging market network operators.
José Ferreira, MD of MTC Namibia, says: “We are confident that this trial will support our market growth strategy and enable us to extend our network coverage into the more rural parts of Namibia – where electricity is not always a viable option – quickly, efficiently and with a reliable solution. Motorola’s innovation and design expertise will enable wind and solar solutions to be deployed in an optimal format for wireless cellular networks.”
Dawn Hartley, development fund manager at the GSMA, adds: “Off-grid connectivity is a key challenge for operators, in particular in developing world markets, and until cost-effective, practical solutions are commonplace, the digital divide will persist. The GSMA is therefore committed to piloting alternative energies for powering base stations, and we are delighted to be involved in this trial in Namibia.”
Stefano Mattiello, regional sales director: sub-Saharan Africa at Motorola Networks & Enterprise, says: “Motorola’s heritage in innovative communication networks is being applied in optimising this type of solution for rural areas and it’s very exciting that we have the first trial anywhere in the world here in Africa.
"The solution will successfully combine with other power optimisation features for GSM cell sites that are currently in development and although the trial is being done on a GSM network the technology can be applied to any wireless network in an off-grid scenario.”
The announcement follows Motorola’s successful UK trial in 2006 which demonstrated the feasibility of alternative power systems to support remote GSM base stations (BTS). The trial concluded that a combination of solar cells and wind turbines can generate 1 200 watts in a continual cycle; enough to drive a mid-sized BTS and support a microwave backhaul installation.
Powering GSM cell sites in both developed and emerging markets is a challenge for operators because of the high cost or difficulty of provisioning mains electrical power.
Motorola’s green-powered BTS, part of the company’s Reach GSM portfolio, can replace or reduce the load on mains power and can also remove the need for power generators that require continual re-fueling and security.