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August 21, 2009

Will Indians start using solar-powered cell phones in a big way?

The solar phone is expected to be a great success in Kenya.

That’s because electricity is nonexistent in many towns and villages in northwest Kenya. Landlines and other forms of communication are not as efficient, so millions in emerging nations rely on mobile phones. Charging the phones can be a headache in towns and villages where electricity is scarce.

Their problems might be over soon.

Kenya’s biggest mobile phone company, Safaricom Ltd., launched the nation’s first solar-charged phone this month. The handset comes with a regular electrical charger and a solar panel that charges the phone using the sun’s rays, company CEO Michael Joseph told CNN by telephone.

Retailing at about $35, the phones were manufactured by Chinese telecommunications company ZTE Corp. Safaricom plans to make an initial supply of 100,000 phones available.

Samsung unveiled a solar-powered phone at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, earlier this year and introduced its first sun-powered phone in India in mid-June. The company expects its Solar Guru model to perform well in India, another country where electrical supply can be erratic.

After the Solar Guru is in circulation in India, Samsung said, it plans to launch similar phones in other Asian markets, Europe and Latin America.

Whether it will be a hit in India is anybody’s guess. True, thousands of villages do not have electricity, but do folks in these villages have money to buy cell phones?

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