GSMA and International Finance Corporation Partner to Launch Community Power from Mobile









The GSMA Development Fund today announced that is has partnered with Lighting Africa, a joint IFC and World Bank programme, to formally launch the Community Power from Mobile (CPM) initiative. CPM will support and encourage mobile network operators (MNOs) and tower-sharing companies in developing countries to provide excess power generated by their base stations to local, off-grid communities.

Mobile operators have become proficient at generating their own off-grid power, typically by diesel generators, but increasingly using alternative energy such as solar and wind. Typically with more than 5 kilowatts (kW) of excess power each, the off-grid base stations will initially be used to charge a range of devices such as mobile handsets, lanterns and household batteries, and ultimately, to power, businesses, clinics, vaccination refrigerators, schools and homes. The off-grid base stations are often physically close to villages which means that communities will no longer have to waste time travelling long distances to charge devices.

“The mobile industry is experiencing unprecedented infrastructure growth in off-grid regions in the developing world, where nearly 1.6 billion people live without access to the electricity grid, and we estimate that 485 million of those have access to mobile phone services,” said Chris Locke, Managing Director, GSMA Development Fund. “As base stations are typically the only powered infrastructure within walking distance of the community, the Community Power from Mobile initiative can simultaneously improve the business case for off-grid telecoms and have significant societal impact.”

CPM plans for pilot projects in East Africa and India to be launched in Q1 2011. The GSMA is working with a number of its members and other industry stakeholders including partners in India and East Africa who are now investigating or trialling new business models in providing power beyond the base station. GSMA members are planning to install 640,000 off-grid base stations by 2012 across the developing world in close proximity to off-grid populations. By mid-2012, CPM will have developed commercially viable business model(s) and assisted 10 MNOs to expand their rollouts across the developing world.

Globally, base of the pyramid (BoP) households spend US$433 billion per year on household energy, primarily for lighting, cooking and powering electronic devices. Handset charging alone costs an average of US$3 per month for an off-grid subscriber, equivalent to a third of their monthly mobile spend, and kerosene purchases for lighting typically add another $5-10 per month . The GSMA has identified a number of major benefits that CPM will deliver:


  • Economic and social uplift in off-grid communities driven by improved energy access
  • Off-grid base stations typically have 5kW of excess power, enough to charge thousands of handsets, provide electricity to 30 homes, power 15 vaccination fridges or 2 clinics
  • As base stations are often in the middle of a village, this results in a major reduction in travel time and costs to charge handsets, lanterns and other electronic devices
  • Additional revenue streams for operators by selling surplus power to energy companies and communities
  • Availability of off-grid handset charging has been demonstrated to raise Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) by 10-14 percent, equivalent to an additional revenue opportunity of US$2.3billion if the 485 million off-grid subscribers had access to handset charging*
  • Increased site security leading to reduction in diesel theft


‘While the rest of the world is enjoying increased electrification levels, Africa’s non-electrified population is growing steadily, projected to reach 700 million by 2030. The situation is particularly acute among the rural poor, who account for 88% of those without electricity’ says Arthur Itotia Njagi, Lighting Africa’s Programme Manager. ‘Partnering with the mobile phone operators promises to develop new business models and delivery models for modern off-grid lighting and related energy services.’

As Community Power from Mobile is an embryonic concept within the mobile industry, the programme will play a key role in helping to build awareness of this opportunity, developing and testing the appropriate business models and identifying the required partners, all of which will help to bring the concept to scale. The CPM initiative will incorporate three workstreams designed to reduce the barriers identified: Knowledge Sharing & Convening, CPM Pilots and Technical Assistance and Training.

During 2009, GSMA Green Power for Mobile conducted research on the Community Power from Mobile concept and published a white paper called ‘Community Power – Using Mobile to Extend the Grid’. The report revealed that operators will deploy 640,000 off-grid base stations by 2012 and these typically have 5 kW of excess power available. The report identified that MNOs are trialling new business models to provide this excess power to local off-grid communities. (more)

The GSMA Development Fund exists to accelerate economic, social and environmental development through the use of mobile technology. It leverages the industry expertise of the GSMA and its members, as well as the development expertise of international agencies and non-profit organisations to accelerate mobile services in three areas: Connectivity, Energy and mServices.

In the Energy area, the Development Fund’s Green Power for Mobile programme, which has launched the Community Power from Mobile initiative, is focused on extending 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, as well as 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, and has been profiled in the Clinton Global Initiative’s 2004-2008 commemorative publication, “Action Speaks Louder than Words”.


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About the GSMA


The GSMA represents the interests of the worldwide mobile communications industry. Spanning 219 countries and territories, the GSMA unites nearly 800 of the world’s mobile operators, as well as more than 200 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset makers, software companies, equipment providers, Internet companies, and media and entertainment organisations. The GSMA is focused on innovating, incubating and creating new opportunities for its membership, all with the end goal of driving the growth of the mobile communications industry.

For more information, please visit Mobile World Live, the new online portal for the mobile communications industry, at or the GSMA corporate website at

Press contacts:
Brian Paterson/Tracy Cheung
Tel: +852 9755 3310/+852 9366 7761
[email protected]

Daniel Lowther: +44 7747 636 687
[email protected]

About Lighting Africa

Lighting Africa, a joint IFC and World Bank program, seeks to accelerate the development of commercial off-grid lighting markets in Sub-Saharan Africa as part of the World Bank Group’s wider efforts to improve access to energy. Lighting Africa is helping mobilize the private sector to build sustainable markets to provide 2.5 million people with safe, affordable, and modern off-grid lighting by 2012. The longer-term goal is to eliminate market barriers for the private sector to reach 250 million people in Africa without electricity, and using fuel based lighting, by 2030. Improved lighting provides significant socio-economic, health and environmental benefits such as new income generation opportunities for small businesses. Lighting Africa is a key element of the global Solar and LED Energy Access (SLED) program, an initiative of the Clean Energy Ministerial. For more information, please visit

Lighting Africa is implemented in partnership with the Africa Renewable Energy and Access Grants Program (AFREA), the Asia Sustainable and Alternative Energy Program (ASTAE), the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Good Energies Inc., Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility, (PPIAF), the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) and the United States.

Additional supporting quotes

“Barefoot Power has been focused on the off-grid power market for 6 years, and sees the Community Power from Mobile as a great opportunity to commercially extend solid, scaled and stable rural power infrastructure to surrounding communities that lack access to electricity, in partnership with mature companies already committed to investing in life-improving technologies.”

Barefoot Power: Stewart Craine, CEO

“Bharti Infratel sees ‘Community Power from Mobile’ as an opportunity to provide power charging services to rural India. As a company, Bharti Infratel views this initiative (currently in its pilot stage) as an opportunity to serve the rural population and believes that this groundbreaking initiative will benefit the rural citizens and would have a have large-scale social impact.”

Bharti Infratel: Sairam Prasad, CTO

“GTL Infra, a Global Group Enterprise with over 31,000 cell towers in operation, is India’s largest independent (not owned by any mobile operator) telecom tower company. Global Group views the Community Power from Mobile opportunity as a way to engage with the local communities and help modern lighting and energy solutions reach remote parts of India.”

GTL: Sharat Chandra, President and COO, Strategy & New Technologies

“Safaricom is providing power at over 20 of our off-grid base stations for handset charging, street lighting, and power for businesses, schools and clinics. As this is all using available excess power we see it as a simple way of adding additional benefit to Kenyan communities whilst also strengthening our brand image, increasing site security and improving local ARPU due to charged handsets.”

Safaricom: Patrick Nyaboga Ng’ate

“Our Energize the Chain project, based at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia is seeking to utilise excess power from base stations for vaccination fridges. Maintaining a powered ‘cold chain’ for vaccinations is a critical barrier to improvements in health care in the rural regions of the developing world. We see Community Power from Mobile as an immediate step that can be done to save lives.”

University of Pennsylvannia: Harvey Rubin, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Computer Science