India tests biofuel for rural wireless

Biofuels are on trial as a fuel to power cellular networks in rural India. Local operator Idea Cellular, Ericsson and the GSM Association have set up a pilot in Pune to power mobile base stations that are off the electricity grid.


The GSMA says the trial is nearing the end of the first phase, which involves testing the feasibility of non-edible plant-based fuels, such as cotton and jatropha.


Phase two will involve setting up a supply chain using locally-grown crops to produce biodiesel to power up to ten base stations in the Maharashtra region. The goal is to have these base stations running on cotton or jatropha by mid-2007.


The attraction of biodiesel is firstly economic - it can be produced locally, thus creating jobs - and secondly its smaller environmental footprint .  The cleaner burning fuel requires fewer site visits and also extends the life of the base station generator, reducing operators' costs.


"Almost three-quarters of India's population lives in rural areas that often lack a reliable power supply," said Sanjeev Aga, chairman of Idea Cellular. "Biofuels will help us further extend mobile coverage into these areas bringing major economic and social benefits to rural communities."