There is a US$2.3 billion opportunity for mobile operators through the provision of off-grid charging solutions such as solar phones or external solar chargers in emerging markets, claims a new report from the GSMA.
The GSMA's Green Power for Mobile (GPM) programme estimates 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%.
"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," said David Taverner, GPM Programme Manager, 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 US$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."
"Mobile networks are increasingly being deployed in rural areas of emerging markets, where consumer access to the grid is at best limited and unreliable and in many cases non-existent," said Windsor Holden, Principal Analyst, Juniper Research. "As Juniper Research has observed, usage will in large be dependent on consumers being able to charge the handset through alternative methods, and solar-powered chargers in particular could become a key means of facilitating reliable access to mobile services in these markets."
The research has found that there is significant interest in off grid solutions - 60% of mobile operators interviewed already have or are exploring off-grid charging initiatives - but there is currently only limited understanding about the full scope of options and the associated social and business benefits. Pioneers Digicel and Safaricom, however, 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 market opportunity is calculated by taking the 485 million people, at an average ARPU of US$4 (GSMA estimate, based on Wireless Intelligence data) and an increase of 10%, on annual basis.