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Safaricom invests Sh96m on cell towers' backup batteries

General Electric CEO of Africa, Jay Ireland (left), GE General manager, energy storage technologies Prescott Logan(centre) and Safaricom limited CEO Bob Collymore during the launch of a deal that will see GE supply Safaricom with 48 GE Durathon batteries which will allow Safaricom network to run efficiently during power outages, April 23, 2013. SALATON NJAU
General Electric CEO of Africa, Jay Ireland (left), GE General manager, energy storage technologies Prescott Logan(centre) and Safaricom limited CEO Bob Collymore during the launch of a deal that will see GE supply Safaricom with 48 GE Durathon batteries which will allow Safaricom network to run efficiently during power outages, April 23, 2013. SALATON NJAU 

Safaricom has invested Sh96 million to purchase back-up batteries for its cell towers in a bid to address frequent network outages caused by recurrent power blackouts.

US firm General Electric has already installed 48 such batteries at the telco’s base stations which are not connected to a standby diesel generator and are located mostly on rooftops around the Nairobi metropolis area.

Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore said its cell sites connected to the national grid experience up to four hours of electricity blackouts daily, leading to network glitches, loss of business and high operations costs.

“The introduction of using this technology will ensure that our customers receive uninterrupted usage of our mobile services,” said Mr Collymore at a press briefing on Tuesday.

“Energy costs make up the biggest component in running a cell tower.”

Frequent electricity outages in Kenya caused by natural causes such as falling trees during rainy weather and vandalism of transmitters and transmission wires has forced Safaricom to seek innovative solutions to ensure uninterrupted supply of power.

Safaricom, which has about 1,700 base stations in Kenya, has turned to solar energy to power some of its cell towers located in regions that receive abundant sunlight.

The company uses diesel-powered generators for stations in off-grid areas, which use an average of 35 litres of fuel daily.

GE says the batteries dubbed Durathon require only two to three hours to recharge and can power a station for up to 10 hours; as opposed to conventional batteries that last a maximum of three hours.

GE CEO for Africa Jay Ireland said the smart back-up solution is ideal for deployment in urban centres where there are space and weight limits; and can also be remotely monitored from a control centre.

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