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Electric car tech used to keep mobile phones in India connected

A UK company is about to start installing hydrogen-powered cell tower generators in India to keep mobile users talking.

Indian mobile network Ascend Telecom and UK-based company – Intelligent Energy have signed a deal to fit 4000 communications towers across 26 states throughout the country with hydrogen-based fuel cell generators to ensure each tower can continue broadcasting even amidst power outages.

Hydrogen fuel cells have most recently cropped up in the automotive world on vehicles like the Honda FCX Clarity and continue to offer a suitable alternative to fossil fuels like petrol and diesel.

Mobile phones in India

Relatively speaking, 4000 towers might seem like a small number, considering that the UK alone has some 23,000 towers and there are 425,000 towers spanning the entirety of India, but even from the offset the scheme is expected to affect some 10 million mobile users, increasing alongside plans to double the country’s number of cell towers to 800,000 by 2020.

Henri Winand, CEO of Intelligent Energy and a former Rolls-Royce engineer believes that the collaboration between these two companies is worth an initial $82m and will serve as the start of a means to revolutionise India’s mobile network reliability – an important step given the increasing number of mobile users in India.

The FT reported that as it stands, some 70% of the country’s cell towers are affected by power cuts of up to eight hours at a time and most rely on diesel-powered backup generators to keep working. Introducing hydrogen fuel cell-powered generators would reduce emissions, catering to the Indian government’s GOOD (Get Out of Diesel) campaign and reduce the 25% share of Ascend Telecom’s total operating costs currently being spent on maintaining the older diesel generator system.

Image: Flickr/John Hoey

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