Amid reports that Yunus may sue Telenor, along with the global financial meltdown, the proposed IPO of GrameenPhone in Bangladesh appears to be on the ropes. To raise cash, GP has offered 14% bonds that appear to be “unsecured.” Well, they aren’t the only company in trouble these days. Did I tell you the CEO quit right in the middle of the IPO dance?
Archive for November, 2008
What’s microtelecom? A network that relies on smaller, solar-driven base stations, so that it can reach into remote rural areas far off the electrical grid. To date, such networks in parts of South Asia and Africa rely on diesel generators, which is expensive and polluting. Like microfinance, microtelecom is based on the belief that “bottom of the pyramid” consumers can be profitably served, with the appropriate business model.
VNL, a Swedish-based company operating in India, has been perfecting low-cost WorldGSM technology for several years, and will begin pilots and rollouts in 2009, in both India and Africa (Malawi). The idea is to implement low-cost equipment that makes it profitable for telecoms to serve low ARPU (“average revenue per user”) users in difficult-to-serve regions.
WorldGSM is GSM compliant, but is low-power and low-cost, self-deploying (no need for skilled technicians, or air conditioning), and low maintenance. WorldGSM is a re-engineering of GSM technology for the next billion rural, unserved low-income users.
The founder and CEO of VNL is Anil Raj, founder of Hutchinson India, now the country’s number two operator. He also served as Chief Strategic Officer at Sony Ericcsion.
Like GrameenPhone in Bangladesh, which has created a huge interlocking chain of entrepreneurs who sell and maintain service, VNL relies on village enterpreneurs to deploy base stations along roadway or atop village houses. One key part of the kit: a compass to make sure the towers face South to collect the sun.