By NBF News
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THE number of mobile telecommunications operators supporting  the Global System for Mobile Telecommunications Association's (GSMA) Mobile Energy Efficiency (MEE) Network Benchmarking Service launched last year, which was meant to manage 150 networks across 100 countries, including Nigeria has increased to 20.

According to GSMA, operators, including Airtel, Axiata, Bharti Infratel, China Mobile, CSL, Idea, Kyivstar, Mobinil, MTN, MTS, NTT Docomo, Orange, Orascom, T-Mobile, Telefónica, Telekom Austria, Telenor, Telecom Italia, Telstra, and Zain have expressed support for the MEE service.

GSMA in a new report explained that the service includes; the propensity to identify and quantify energy efficiency savings for mobile network operators; benchmark networks against a consistent set of four key performance indicators - energy per connection, energy per base station, energy per unit of traffic, and energy per unit of revenue; and report on aggregate mobile network greenhouse gas emissions, globally and by region, using 2009 data as a baseline.

Already, GSMA, which is the body that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, spanning 219 countries, last year encouraged mobile operators to develop a community power project that will see them sell electricity as well as airtime. The association noted that the generator powering the local mobile mast is often the only electricity source available in many developing communities.

According to statistics, a full 1.6 billion people in the developing world live without access to electricity, but at the same time the mobile industry has managed to reach a huge proportion of them and in doing so is in the process of deploying 640,000 'off-grid' base stations by 2012. The GSMA had urged operators to take a proportion of this power and provide it to the local off-grid communities for usage.

The GSMA Development Fund has announced that it has partnered with Lighting Africa, a joint IFC and World Bank programme, to launch the Community Power from Mobile (CPM) initiative aimed at encouraging mobile network operators and tower-sharing companies to do just that.

GSMA noted that making electricity available from off grid base stations would help increase penetration for mobile phones and larger economies of scale as well.

Under the scheme, off-grid generators will initially be used to charge a range of devices - obviously mobile handsets, but also lanterns and household batteries, and ultimately, businesses, clinics, vaccination refrigerators, schools and homes.

However, the Corporate Service Executive of MTN Nigeria, Wale Goodluck, at an interaction with journalists in Lagos, stressed that the crippling power problem in the country is a major challenge to optimising the huge benefits inherent in the country's telecom sector.

According to him, operators daily confront challenges, especially in the area of securing land to build base stations, vandalisations among others, arguing that the network could not get any better if base stations are not built and that except those bottlenecks are removed, operators would continue to be hindered to provide the best of services.

However, research revealed that the cooling system is obviously a good starting point because it represents as much as 35 per cent of the total electricity consumption of the base station. The research noted that the proportion can increase to 50 per cent if there are fewer transmitters in use, adding that mobile operators like Vodacom, Orange and MTN have started to experiment with 'free cooling system' technology at their base stations.

On the MEE initiative, Senior Vice President, Public Policy, GSMA, Gabriel Solomon was quoted as saying, 'I am very proud that we have reached scale so quickly and have attracted some of the mobile industry's leading MNOs, with many more expected to join soon. The GSMA's approach is a practical and pragmatic answer to what can be a very complex issue.'

Solomon stressed that the GSMA's approach is closely aligned to the European Commission's Recommendation on Mobilising Information and Communications Technologies to facilitate the transition to an energy-efficient, low-carbon economy.

The GSMA said it is actively working with standards bodies such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), who are developing an appropriate methodology to assess the life cycle impact of the ICT industry. By focusing on mobile networks, the GSMA's MEE captures the vast majority of mobile industry emissions.

The mobile industry published its Green Manifesto, November 2009, which estimated that 84 per cent of the mobile industry's direct emissions are consumed by the network and only 16 per cent by devices.