Ericsson gets connected in Inner Mongolia


COMMUNICATIONS/ RENEWABLE ENERGY: SWEDISH GIANT Ericsson is using wind and solar power to bring mobile phone connectivity to remote regions such as Inner Mongolia, writes JOHN REYNOLDS

Spanning an area of over 1,180,000sq km - almost twice the size of France - Inner Mongolia is one of the most remote regions in the world, with very few connections to the rest of the globe.

Although larger settlements in the area have enjoyed a well-established mobile network for some time, China Mobile has now brought reliable voice and data communications to inhabitants of the region's plains using Ericsson's technology.

Traditionally living as nomadic herdsmen, in areas not connected to electricity, they are now benefiting from the inhospitable landscape's weather.

At its altitude of 1,000 metres, it gets plenty of wind and sunshine, so that running base stations - the masts that receive and transmit mobile voice and data calls and text messages - using a combination of wind and solar power is extremely effective there.

The solution can even be adapted by calculating the ratio of wind to solar and operating the masts accordingly.

"This project is fairly unique in that we are serving people in areas which have no history of telecommunications at all, fixed line or mobile," says Daphne Zhu, market communications manager for Ericsson.

"For example herdsmen are now able to stay in contact with neighbours, which makes keeping track of their herds much easier. It is a great example of our philosophy of communication for all."

The company has also adapted a more aesthetically-pleasing base station design so that it can operate using four vertical rotor blades attached to its 'tower tube' concept (pictured).

The Ericsson initiative follows moves by the GSM Association, a trade group representing 750 mobile networks, to use renewable energy to power 118,000 base stations by 2012.

There are now about 1,500 base stations in the world using some form of renewable energy - wind, solar or biofuel, the group says.

If they were all powered in this way, it would save about 660 million gallons (2.5 billion litres) of diesel a year.