India currently has one of the largest populations of cell phone users in the world – the nation is expected to have 815 million users by year’s end. To help expand its growing communication network, the Indian government has announced plans to erect as many as 2,200 solar-powered mobile communication towers in the states of Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

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The government clearly believes that mobile technology can push development in economically weak regions – so far it has upgraded a number of programs to dispense information to fishermen and farmers using mobile technology. The government is also planning to launch the Digital India project to ensure that every Indian has a smartphone by 2019.

The Indian government is also looking to mobile communications as a response to left-wing extremism. The extremists wreak havoc in underdeveloped areas on the pretext that the state and central government have neglected them, and abused their land and forest resources. So the government is planning to invest in the areas with cell phone towers to quell some of their demands.

Related: India to Install Solar-Powered Cell Phone Towers This Year

Currently, areas where left-wing extremists operate are equipped with diesel-powered mobile towers, but those are risky and uneconomical due to safety concerns and refueling hassles. Plus, diesel prices are skyrocketing, making diesel-powered mobile towers that much less viable for underdeveloped regions of India. Solar-powered cell phone towers are thought to offer the perfect solution since they are self-sustaining, don’t require refueling, and produce little to no emissions.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has been pushing the mobile industry to switch to renewable energy-powered mobile towers anyway. According to guidelines issued in 2013, 75 percent of towers located in rural India and 33 percent of towers located in urban areas are mandated to be at least partially powered by renewable energy sources. The agency also wants mobile companies to declare their carbon footprint twice a year and reduce emissions by 17 percent by 2018-19.

Via Clean Technica

Photos by Babug (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons and by Eclypes2008 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons