During November 2013 a company called World Panel is to launch a suite of handheld solar chargers for the African market. A key feature of the new chargers is the patented direct-from-the-sun technology that charges a phone as fast as a wall outlet and allows for a low price-point as well as durability. Utility-grade materials from the solar industry are used in the construction of the devices.
“I arrived in the sub-Saharan region in 2011 with a solar prototype for boiling water and left with the clear message that people wanted a better way to keep their phones charged,” World Panel CEO John Anderson, says. “After an intense R&D and testing period, I am returning to Africa to launch a line of patented chargers that meets the requirements of those I interviewed: it is as fast as a wall plug, it will last, and the price is right. Income generation is possible also for both entrepreneurs and the telecoms since 10 phones can be charged in a day.”
Recent independent tests performed on the chargers show that the most popular phones in Africa charge in an hour, which provides five to six hours of talk time. Blackberry smart phones charge in two to three hours and provide three to four hours of talk and data time.
By eliminating the charging costs associated with phone ownership in many areas, and allowing for fast and easy charging for up to 10 phones per day via free sun energy, operators can review programs that recoup the cost of the chargers within a few months and generate average revenue per unit (ARPU) for years to come. On-the-go charging can pave the way for more airtime purchases and smart phone use. World Panel will offer attractive co-branding and bundling opportunities to those interested in adding mobile electricity to their line of subscriber services. The association of mobile operators GSMA states that charging solutions represent a US$3.37 billion opportunity for the operators, and the UN’s energy initiative has published that African telecoms suffer a 20% revenue loss due to unreliable phone charging.