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Overcoming Off-grid Power Problems for Rural Connectivity

Might 14, 2019

Cellular community operators discover advantages in using the newest gasoline cell know-how to power cell websites to attach rural communities, improve individuals’s lives and improve telecom income.


A GenCell gasoline cell suspended from a mechanical arm on a supply truck.

For many who travel via cellular black spots or areas of poor protection, wi-fi service interruptions typically are only short-term annoyances or inconvenience. But for those who stay in rural places around the globe — some 1 billion individuals — poor or no cellular reception can have a critical and detrimental effect on their lives and businesses.

It is staggering to assume that in 2018, 14 % of the world’s population had no electrical energy, telecommunications or primary providers. Of these individuals, 84 % reside in rural communities. In an more and more related world, the strain on cellular network operators (MNOs) to improve communications networks is large.

A brand new, reasonably priced gasoline cell know-how promises to unravel the large drawback of supplying energy to telecommunications towers in rural communities lacking electrical energy provided by utilities. The brand new gasoline cells use breakthrough know-how that’s 100 % clean (no CO2emissions), is value effective and only needs refueling and upkeep every year.

Not only will it save power service corporations (ESCOs) money, however it’s going to additionally permit MNOs to attract extra enterprise whereas growing communication amongst and with shoppers to rework their financial improvement, schooling, health and quality of life.

In line with GSMA Intelligence, 2G digital cellular communications coverage reaches greater than 90 % of the global population in most mature markets and in many emerging ones. Compared with 2G, the 3G wireless communications protection with quicker knowledge switch charges reaches 60 to 70 % of the worldwide inhabitants. GSMA Intelligence is a supply of cellular operator knowledge, evaluation and forecasts. It’s run by GSMA, a membership organization representing cellular operators worldwide.

GSMA Intelligence revealed international market figures in its 2014 report, “Mobile Access — The Last Mile.”

Unreliable Connections

In a survey of 1,465 corporations in its 2017 “Digital Economy Survey,” the British Chambers of Commerce discovered that 29 % reported unreliable cellular web connections — with the figure rising to 54 % in rural areas.
Though the potential cellular service income misplaced because of poor or nonexistent rural connectivity is troublesome to estimate, a conservative estimate places it at tons of of hundreds of thousands of dollars globally.

So, if the enterprise opportunity is seemingly robust, what are the obstacles to rural connectivity? First, remote areas are typically less populated and fewer prosperous. As well as, planning legal guidelines in lots of nations prohibit the erection of monopoles or limit the maximum peak of mobile phone towers. Nevertheless, one of many largest issues in rural places is the shortage of an electrical grid to cost-effectively power cell phone towers.

Value of Grid Electrical energy

For many cellular carriers, the price to increase utility electricity to an off-grid tower is simply too expensive. In some circumstances, corporations have installed diesel turbines to offer the required power. Nevertheless, they want regular upkeep to make sure their effectiveness, which signifies that two turbines have to be installed so one is operational while the opposite one is offline for upkeep. Managing these diesel turbines requires time-consuming and expensive monthly upkeep visits to every tower. For bigger businesses, this might characterize many tons of or hundreds of towers. What’s more, there’s also a growing development for diesel turbines to be stolen, causing vital disruption and extra value.

The mixture of vast and difficult-to-service areas, with the shortage of a grid or a dependable power various, has made the rollout of rural networks primarily unaffordable. Moreover, the price to determine rural towers is just not coated by incremental income from a low-volume, rural buyer base. If you also think about that many companies at the moment are additionally looking for options to diesel to scale back their carbon footprint, you possibly can see that rural networks are a posh problem for the business.

Vital Numbers

GSMA estimates that by 2020, the worldwide telecom business may have deployed approximately 390,000 off-grid telecom towers, with 790,000 towers in bad-grid places — so the numbers are vital.

The report additionally suggests that if these towers proceed to make use of diesel, as is the case for greater than 90 % of them, diesel consumption for telecom towers will improve by 13 to 15 % from immediately’s levels to over 150 million barrels per yr. The ensuing annual value of diesel can be over $19 billion in 2020, or $5 per mobile-phone consumer per yr. As well as, about 45 million tons of CO₂ per yr shall be launched, which is a rise of greater than 5 million tons yearly.

More importantly:

·     Converting to extra efficient, greener various tower power options might save the business $13 billion to $14 billion yearly, even after capital expenses.
·     Adopting green applied sciences at this scale might scale back carbon emissions by 40 million tons and save $100 million to $500 million yearly.

So, the environmental factor is incredibly essential. The business alternative to realize considerable financial savings while growing customer support and tapping otherwise misplaced revenue is not any much less substantial.

One of the greener energy options is the fashionable gasoline cell. And based on many, it’s just across the corner, able to revolutionize the telecommunications market.

What Is a Gasoline Cell?

NASA pioneered using alkaline gasoline cells within the 1960s to offer the electricity to power spacecraft of its Apollo program.
Within the early days of gasoline cell improvement, the promise of the know-how was large, and lots of businesses have been interested in its distinct benefits. Nevertheless, as scientists tried to commercialize the know-how, issues with scalability and manufacturability turned apparent.

However, as with most know-how introductions, many kinds of gasoline cells have since been designed and refined, and the early issues have been resolved – principally gasoline cell affordability as mirrored in capital expenses and operating bills.
As we speak, hydrogen-based gasoline cells present backup energy in quite a lot of markets including manufacturing, power, homeland security and telecom networks.

Main Power Gasoline Cells

These gasoline cell options continue to be properly acquired and are being adopted, but the world has also been ready for a mainstream power answer for a number of main energy purposes.

Imagine with the ability to energy off-grid telecom towers with an answer that doesn’t require diesel, and one that’s cheaper, cleaner, more secure, ultra-reliable, and solely wants sustaining and fueling every year.

In 2018, GenCell introduced a new gasoline cell know-how for mainstream power. Presently in the last part of subject testing, this new answer brings the entire value of ownership for gasoline cell energy to a worth level that takes it from a backup power answer to mainstream energy for off-grid purposes — with all of the added advantages that gasoline cells ship.

Large Opportunity

What does this mean for the telecom business? Nicely, if nothing else, large alternative: 53 % of the world’s inhabitants continues to be not online, with 22 % of that determine attributed to developed nations.

In distant areas with excessive climate, corresponding to in Brazil with its high humidity or Canada with its extreme chilly, telecom suppliers typically wrestle to offer communities with a reliable and steady telecom network. Gasoline cells might bridge that hole and revolutionize telecom tower reliability, providing uninterrupted service in temperatures from −40°C to +45°C (−40°F to +113°F).

In some instances, this is not a nice-to-have, but a must have know-how, where, for instance, with the ability to make a name to the emergency providers can save lives. In different situations, reliable access to the web makes on-line banking and other providers potential, significantly enhancing lives, businesses and financial prosperity.

5G Connectivity

With speak of 5G connectivity being the important thing to providing high-speed broadband web service sooner or later, you’ll be able to see that solving off-grid power issues will grow to be paramount to all — but especially to power service corporations that present power to towers owned by cellular community operators and dedicated tower corporations. These businesses are constantly underneath strain to lower power prices and power represents as a lot as 60 % of annual working bills.

Business Milestone

In a world that increasingly relies on immediacy and connectivity for social requirements and business opportunities, solving the off-grid power drawback might be an essential business milestone. Gasoline cells can provide the 100 % sustainable, reliable and cost-effective power needed to get rural areas on-line and speaking.


Rami Reshef is CEO of GenCell. For more info, visit www.gencellenergy.com.

This text initially ran within the Might situation of AGL Journal.

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