Mobile phone masts in India need a back-up source of power due to frequent outages

Hydrogen fuel cells for India's mobile phone masts

Mobile phone masts in India will be equipped with hydrogen fuel cells to serve as a backup for India’s failure prone power grid.

British hydrogen fuel cell developer and manufacturer Intelligent Energy, one of the fastest growing UK technology companies in 2013 according to Deloitte, will provide the technology in what it said is the biggest contract in its history. As part of the £50m deal, Intelligent Energy will fit 4,000 towers operated by India’s Ascend Telecom with hydrogen fuel cells, originally developed with Suzuki to power motor scooters.

Intelligent Energy’s CEO Henri Winand said the technology was cheaper and more reliable than diesel generators, currently used as a back-up source to power mobile phone towers in India.

As India’s power grid is extremely failure-prone, with outages possibly happening for up to 12 hours every day, the back-up source is crucial to enable Ascend to provide constant mobile phone coverage to its 10 million customers.

"We have been generating power quietly for two years (in India), but now we are taking contracts where we are competitive and more cost-effective than the distributed diesel generation baseline," Henri Winand said to Reuters.

"It's the first contract we have taken of this nature and this size and scope."

Covering a five-year period, the contract has the potential to grow to about £122m as Ascend's mast coverage is expected to grow together with the growing mobile phone communications market in India. 

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