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Sun powered pay phones.

A drawback with payphones is that you need electricity for them to operate - and this becomes quite a problem in outlying areas where telephone apparatus can easily be installed, but not the power source to run it. Now the sun is providing the hook-up, thanks to the ingenuity of a Uganda-South Africa business partnership.

Remkor, a South African manufacturer of telephone enclosures, in partnership with Uganda's MTN Publicom, has designed a pay-phone unit that operates on solar energy. It is set to revolutionise telecom services in those parts of Africa where power is unavailable.

For the first time, the remotest areas of the continent will have access to global systems mobile (GSM) and wireless telephone, irrespective of the location.

Designed to withstand the harsh African climate, the unit is constructed almost entirely of stainless steel manufactured by Columbus of South Africa. Solar panels make up the roof and are set at angles of 10, 20 and 30 degrees to take advantage of the angle of the sun in a particular region, ensuring optimum effectiveness of the solar unit.

These panels capture the sun's rays, convert them to energy and feed power into the unit's battery. The battery runs the telephone at night and on overcast days, and recharges the electricity generating solar panels in sunny weather. To protect against vandalism and theft, the solar module is integrated with the unit's upper housing and is irremovable. The communication antenna and overhead light are also housed in the unit's roof and ceiling.

Just a start

The solar power unit is supplied independently of the payphone itself as it must be custom adapted to the needs of each customer, taking into account the type of telephones to be operated from it.

This means the angle of the solar panels must be individualised to capture the maximum energy from the sun, depending on the location of each phone unit.

"We have already sold 60 units into Uganda," reports Nino la Monica, Remkor's CEO, "but this is just the start. We are also exporting to Tanzania and there is interest from Kenya, Rwanda, Namibia, Zambia, Oman and Israel."

That's not bad for a product that was only launched at the end of last year. In the next few months, Remkor management will visit India, Thailand and other Asian and South American markets. "The potential for this product is world wide," says La Monica, "wherever the climate is right."
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Title Annotation:from Remkor, South Africa
Publication:African Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Mar 1, 2001
Words:403
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