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VNL – Do It Yourself Solar powered GSM towers for the next billion

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We are the next billion mobile users. Meet us.

VNL is a Swedish-Indian company which builds solar powered GSM equipment to meet the rural connectivity demands. It is leading the micro telecom revolution in India and the rest of the world.

Traditional GSM networks need enormous amount of power and cannot entirely rely on the national grid. They make up the deficit with diesel. It is estimated that 1.8 billion liters of diesel is used to power base station in India.

Fuel takes up 60% of the operating costs for the traditional GSM stations. This will only increase if the another billion wants a cell phone.

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VNL Star cascade architecture

Tradition GSM networks pose three challenges. Cost of the tower installation, fuel consumed and the expertise involved in erecting a tower. VNL took care of these 3 things.

If you can change a flat tire, you can probably put one up.

That’s the deal. Untrained villagers can build the towers which takes care of the bulk of installation challenges faced by the traditional towers. This brings down the installation costs and time drastically. This would also facilitate the mass deployment of GSM networks.

VNL tower needs only a 100W of power to run and is powered by the solar panels. Depending upon the geography any additional power can be supplemented by wind power.

How does it work? There are 3 sites or towers which VNL offers. Rural site, road site and village site. A Rural site is a stand alone tower which consumes 150W of power and uses 8 square meters solar panel. A rural site can support 5 village sites. A village site can be erected on a rooftop and consumes 100W of power. It should be erected within a 5 km radius of a rural site.  A road site is a stand alone tower with the same power requirements and can be installed along the roads and highways.

A mix of rural, village and road sites can be used in a cascading star architecture for mass deployment and maximum effect. The power consumption varies between rural, road and village site. But, even if taken together the power consumed is only a fraction of the GSM tower.

Is VNL really gonna meet the next billion? That is something which we have to wait and see. But, for VNL sake it is receiving all kinds of accolades for its foresight. It has recently won the best Technology foresight award.

  1. Daniil Dillenger says

    That’s the sort of technology that we need all over the world, especially here in the US! Villages, towns, and neighborhood groups should be running their own GSM towers, each neighbor need only help pay for the tower and then buy their own phone! kiss those greedy telcos goodbye.

    This is the future of telecom

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