From Anand Parthasarathy, in Singapore.
Indian provider of ‘micro’ telecom infrastructure, VNL ( Vihaan Networks Ltd) drew a lot of attention at the just concluded CommunicaAsia tech show in Singapore, with its striking demonstration of an affordable solar powered GSM system for the world’s power-challenged rural reaches. A combination of 2G GSM and WiFi, backhauled over a 100-Mbps microwave network, the VNL system called World GSM, costs less than $ 5000 per installation and is the first such offering that is entirely independent of the power grid. It runs exclusively on solar power and requires no diesel generator backup. The entire base station packs into boxes and can be transported by local means such as a cart or boat. It is easily installed by unskilled local workers and requires no buildings, power or air conditioning. Visitors were surprised to learn that the system was specifically made to be viable, even with average returns per user (ARPUs) of as low as $2.
Yet ironically India’s rural users consume 10 times the volume of data of the average user in a built-up area,VNL founder Chairman Rajiv Mehrotra said. "They don't send emails and SMS, they are downloading a lot of movies," he said in a presentation at CommunicAsia. "They have not seen the world, they want to learn about it”, adding “Fibre is overkill. 3G and LTE is too expensive”. Whichnis why the WorldGSM system sticks with 2G GSM and 802.11 WiFi. ( see The entire WorldGSM™ base station packs into boxes and can be transported by simple, local means such as a cart or boat. It is easily installed by unskilled local workers. No buildings, power, air conditioning. (Interview with Total Telecom http://www.totaltele.com/view.aspx?ID=465808 )
Gurgaon, India-based VNL founded in 2004 is part of the 37 year old Shyam Group of companies which straddles the telecom infrastructure business. (www.vnl.in ) June 25 2011