(EnergyAsia, February 23, Monday) — Mobile telecommunications operator Digicel, supported by the GSMA Development Fund, said it has completed the second phase of its green power network implementation and is using wind and solar energy to power up 25 base stations on the Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu.

Digicel, the leading mobile operator in Vanuatu, now carries more than 60% of its network traffic on base stations powered by renewable energy sources.

Typically, off-grid base stations have been powered by generators running on diesel, which is increasingly erratic in price, is costly to distribute and generates carbon dioxide emissions.

Digicel said solar, wind and hybrid power provides a more cost-effective and reliable solution than either solar cells or wind turbines alone, to bring GSM coverage to some of the most remote communities in Vanuatu.

“By implementing alternative sources of energy, we are able to connect the unconnected, making communications accessible to many in Vanuatu for the first time,” said Tanya Menzies, CEO of Digicel Vanuatu.

“The work we are doing in Vanuatu is particularly important to the Digicel Group, as it’s serving as a model for alternative power deployments for other Digicel networks around the world.

Digicel, which launched commercial service in June 2008, recently completed the second phase in the project, bringing the current number of green-powered base stations to 25.

In 2009, the company plans to install a new wind turbine to an existing wind farm to power a portion of its sites, enabling the operator to reduce its annual power bill by an order of magnitude.

“The GSMA created the Green Power for Mobile programme with two objectives in mind: to promote the use of green power to expand mobile networks into regions currently lacking coverage, and to facilitate the systematic reduction of reliance on diesel by operators,” said Michael O’Hara, chief marketing officer for the GSMA.

“Our work with Digicel further demonstrates the commercial viability of implementing renewable energy systems on a broad scale and has helped establish best practices for future green power projects.”

Since its launch in the South Pacific in November 2006, Digicel has become the fastest-growing mobile operator in the Pacific, with operations in Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. The company was recently granted licences by the Governments of Fiji and has commitments from several other countries in the Pacific.

Digicel said it has contributed to the 0.7% growth to the GDP of Papua New Guinea since its launch as the second mobile operator on July 20, 2007.

The GSMA represents the interests of the worldwide mobile communications industry. Spanning 219 countries, the GSMA unites more than 750 of the world’s mobile operators, as well as 200 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset makers, software companies, equipment providers, Internet companies, and media and entertainment organizations.