Vodafone to launch solar and bike-powered mobile charger for millions off-grid

Vodafone-ReadySet-1

Vodacom Tanzania and energy firm Fenix International have entered into an exclusive agreement to launch ReadySet mobile chargers in Tanzania from March 2013.

The portable phone charger, powered by a solar panel or bicycle dynamo, will provide a much-needed solution for the millions of off-grid mobile customers who travel miles to access electricity.  Globally, more than 1.3 billion people live without access to electricity and there are 600 million mobile phone users living off-grid who spend an estimated $10bn a year on charging phones using petrol generators and car batteries. Vodafone has more than 100m off-grid subscribers worldwide. In Tanzania, only 14 per cent of the 46m population are connected to the electricity grid.

A ReadySet pilot in the Pwani Region of Tanzania in 2012 found the device to be an enterprise opportunity for small business owners, including Vodacom Tanzania’s 40,000 M-Pesa agents. A commercial initiative, this is expected to increase mobile use for some of M-Pesa’s 4.5 million Tanzanian subscribers and boost revenue in off-grid areas. The pilot saw airtime vendors and M-Pesa agents offering ReadySet charging increase airtime sales and SIM registrations, with a 14 per cent increase in average revenue per user.

The ReadySet is simple to use, charges multiple phones simultaneously and powers lights, radios and tablets. The solar panel charger – which charges up to 10 phones a day – will be available first and the bicycle dynamo will launch later. Five to 10 minutes of cycling provides enough energy to fully charge a mobile. An included universal battery charger enables customers to leave just the mobile battery with the vendor and an included LED light enables businesses to remain open into the evening. Shopkeepers said this saved them up to $10/mo. in kerosene fuel for lighting. The ReadySet will cost around $200, enabling vendors to earn $40-$50 a month from phone charging.

Rene Meza, Managing Director, Vodacom Tanzania, said: “ReadySet is both a commercial opportunity and a simple technological solution aimed at significantly improving the lives of off-grid mobile customers and small business owners seeking an additional revenue stream. It provides off-grid consumers with a cost efficient and energy efficient solution – and increases access to mobile services such as M-Pesa.”

Mike Lin, CEO of Fenix International, said: “Fenix is delighted to partner with Vodacom to launch the ReadySet power system.  Vodacom has already transformed the lives of nine million people in Tanzania by providing unprecedented access to mobile communications and mobile banking via its M-Pesa network.  Whether an M-Pesa agent, small business or a mother looking to generate additional household income, the ReadySet can empower owners to become micro-utility entrepreneurs in their communities.” 

About Vodafone

Vodafone is one of the world’s largest mobile communications companies by revenue with approximately 403 million customers in its controlled and jointly controlled markets as of 31 December 2012. Vodafone currently has equity interests in over 30 countries across five continents and more than 50 partner networks worldwide. For more information, please visit www.vodafone.com.

About Vodacom Tanzania

Vodacom Tanzania Limited is Tanzania’s leading cellular network offering state-of-the-art GSM communication services to more than nine million customers across the country. Vodacom Tanzania is a subsidiary company of Vodacom Group Limited, South Africa which is also a subsidiary of Vodafone Group. Vodacom Group Limited owns a majority share portion of 65%, the remaining 35% is owned by Tanzanian shareholder, one Mirambo Ltd.

About Fenix International

Fenix International innovates ultra-affordable power generation and smart energy storage solutions to empower more than 1.3 billion people living off-grid. Fenix is a venture-backed corporation based in San Francisco, California with core expertise in power for mobile, product design and base-of-the-pyramid marketing. Fenix has been prominently featured in the New York Times, Wired, Fast Company and has won several awards and honours since it was founded in 2009. For more information, please visit http://www.fenixintl.com/

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