GSMA Highlights 1.4bn Off-grid Opportunity

A report released by the GSM Association (GSMA), Charging Choices, says there is a $2.3 billion (1.4 billion) opportunity for mobile operators through the provision of off-grid charging solutions such as solar phones or external solar chargers in emerging markets.
The GSMAs Green Power for Mobile (GPM) programme, which commissioned the research, estimates that there are 485 million mobile users without access to the electricity grid, a factor which severely limits usage opportunities. The report identifies a range of charging choices available that, if implemented effectively, will extend service availability and could boost average revenues per user by 10-14%.
The GSMA has calculated the market opportunity by taking these 485 million mobile users, at an average ARPU of $4, which is a GSMA estimate, based on Wireless Intelligence data, and an increase of 10%, on annual basis
The research finds that there is significant interest in off grid solutions 60% of mobile operators interviewed already have explored or are exploring off-grid charging initiatives but notes that there is currently only limited understanding about the full scope of options and the associated social and business benefits. But the GSMA says that two companies, Digicel and Safaricom, have demonstrated how the consumer, the environment and the mobile operator can reap the benefits of off-grid charging solutions. Charging Choices provides initial exploration into alternative charging options, and examines the types of solutions currently available on the market.
As part of its GPM programme, the Development Fund conducted the study over a three-month period from June through August 2009. It included extensive desk research to identify emerging vendors, their products, and other players in the field, and dozens of interviews and surveys of mobile operators and vendors covering 50 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The GSMA Development Fund launched its GPM programme in September 2008 to extend mobile beyond the grid, with two primary objectives: to systematically reduce diesel consumption by mobile operators through the promotion of renewable energy technologies and energy efficient base stations; and to remove the barriers to handset charging in off-grid regions. The programme has recently been recognised by the Clinton Global Initiative for its exemplary approach to accelerating solutions that address climate change.
We are extremely excited that operators are able to provide people in off-grid areas with solutions to power mobile phones, as this will not only improve quality of life and access to information but can also act as a unique and significant opportunity to fuel economic growth, says David Taverner, GPM Programme Manager at the GSMA. The figures we used to calculate the market size of off-grid charging solutions were on the conservative side, so the actual benefit to mobile operators could in fact be much greater than the $2.3 billion we are estimating. This preliminary market overview is the start of what the GSMA believes will be an important area of industry growth in the coming years.