Fuel Cell Technology to Transform African Telecommunications
Tuesday, July 6, 2010  Printer Friendly Email this article

Sub-Saharan African gas company African Oxygen Ltd. (Afrox) has partnered with UK-based Diverse Energy to conduct field trials of hydrogen-from-ammonia fuel technology in three regions of Africa. The new hydrogen fuel cell technology could transform the telecommunications industry on the continent by bringing clean, low cost power to remote cell towers.


The first field study will be conducted in a remote area in Namibia with trials to later run in Johannesburg, South Africa in September.


According to Afrox, the technology uses ordinary ammonia to extract hydrogen as a fuel source to efficiently power cell phone towers that have no access to main grid electricity. “The science could revolutionize the alternative energy solutions market in the telecommunications industry worldwide,” the company said.


The telecommunications industry has been getting an overhaul with more renewable energy projects coming on board. Nokia Siemens Networks even released an energy solutions program to help reduce network operating costs and lower power consumption by utilizing renewable energy in February. And leading telecommunications operators in Africa, MTN, and a GSM cellular network, Vodacom, are delving into renewable energy to power their base stations in sub-Saharan Africa.


Spiwe Chireka, Frost & Sullivan industry analyst, says the adoption of green technologies by mobile operators is a supplier-driven initiative led by companies such as Ericsson. “What we expect to see is European telcos, such as Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent, which operate in Africa, to be at the forefront of driving green technologies.” Chireka adds that over the next five years, mobile operators will start to take an incremental approach to alternative energy.


Afrox points to a recent report by Ernst & Young, indicating the telecommunications market in Africa is forecast to grow faster than any other region, with increasing competition making operational efficiency a top priority.


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