A new pay phone unit that is powered by solar energy was launched at the end of 2008 by Remkor, a South African manufacturer of telephone enclosures, in partnership with Uganda's MTN Publicom. The units will provide remote areas of Africa with their first access to global systems mobile (GSM) and wireless telecommunications no matter how isolated their location.
The unit is vandal resistant, fully integrated and irremovable and is constructed almost entirely out of stainless steel, manufactured by Columbus of South Africa, in order to withstand the effects of the climate. Solar panels set at angles ranging from 5 degrees to 30 degrees on the roof of the unit, depending on the geographic region of the area, convert the sun's rays into energy to charge the unit's maintenance free sealed lead acid battery. Without sunlight the unit has a 10 day lifespan.
The roof and ceiling of the unit also contain the overhead light and long range antenna which is designed to operate to the outer limits of the GSM and wireless networks. Remkor has used the 3.5W monocrystalline photovoltaic solar module to produce the SLC telephone lighting system.
Many rural areas in Africa are isolated, with no paved roads, no electricity and few phone lines, so access to telecommunications will greatly improve the livelihood of the large populations in these areas. The solar pay phone units will enable remote farming communities to compare prices of produce and give accurate delivery dates and times to customers, which was previously not possible.
MTN Uganda, a South Africa-based multinational mobile telecommunications company operating in many African and Middle Eastern countries has already developed the first solar-powered payphone on Lake Victoria in Uganda, which gives local fisherman access to a telephone for business and personal use.
So far Uganda has purchased 60 solar pay phone units from Remkor who are also exporting to Tanzania and there is interest in the units from Kenya, Rwanda, Namibia, Zambia, Oman and Israel.
Top Image: Payphone on Lake Victoria in Uganda using GSM Technology and Solar Power. (Source: Remkor).
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