A pilot project, set up by industry body the GSMA development fund as well as by mobile firms, Idea Cellular and Ericsson, is already underway in the western city of Pune in Maharashtra, India.

This project aims to enhance the existing Indian mobile network infrastructure, specifically in remote areas not only because it is often unreliable and does not cover the whole of the country but also because users of mobile phones have been increased to 130 million since 2003.

The project has been divided into two phases. The first phase, which is nearing completion, examines the viability of energy crops such as cotton and jatropha. In the second phase, biodiesel, which is derived from indigenous crops, will fuel mobile base stations in unconnected rural areas, without access to electricity in the Maharashtra region.

According to Sanjeev Aga, chairman of IDEA Cellular, ‘Biofuels will help us further extend mobile coverage.’

Although at pilot stage, the project hopes to have up to 10 base stations operating in Pune, in the Maharashtra region of west India, by mid-2007.

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