February 18, 2009 It's sometimes difficult in a white-bread-world to empathise with the have-nots, and we found some of the other media coverage of this story quite amusing. The Caribbean-based Digicel Group used the Barcelona Mobile World Congress to launch the world’s first low-cost solar-powered mobile phone yesterday and it's not designed for the environmentally conscious, but for the two billion people in the world who have limited or no access to electricity. The reason it doesn't have the high-end functionality we regard as essential is that its target audience is both functionally and technologically illiterate and the Coral-200-Solar will almost certainly be the first and possibly only phone they will ever own.
The Coral-200-Solar comes with an integrated solar charger and is a logical next step for Digicel which operates primarily in emerging economies and has been providing many of its mobile customers with low-cost portable solar chargers. Digicel operates in 26 markets in the Caribbean and Central America include Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Bermuda, Bonaire, The British Virgin Islands, The Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominica, El Salvador, French Guiana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Panama, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Turks and Caicos and Trinidad & Tobago. The company's sister operation, Digicel Pacific Ltd, has operations in Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu.
There are an estimated two billion people in the world who have limited access to electricity. The population of many emerging markets in which Digicel provides cellular services will benefit greatly by access to a mobile handset that can be powered by the sun, or by electric power when it is available.
Mr Xiong Hui, VP of ZTE’s handset division says: “As mobile phones continue to proliferate in emerging markets and are widely used where electricity is available, mobile operators are demanding more innovative handsets. We are confident that the Digicel Coral-200-Solar is such a product and that solar power technology can be used in any type of handset. We are pleased to provide this handset with Digicel and Intivation. It will help millions of consumers worldwide to use mobile phones more conveniently and the technology is more environment-friendly.”
Digicel will begin to deploy the Coral-200-Solar in selected markets from June.