Tanzanian pay-as-you-go (PAYG) off-grid energy provider Trend Solar has launched a new solar home kit complete with 4G smartphone to enable rural areas to access both power and internet.
Founded in 2015, Trend Solar designs, manufactures, distributes and finances a range of solar systems, from 70Wh systems aimed at low-income households to 32kWh all-in one battery storage and mini-grid systems.
The startup is now aiming to leverage the influence of the mobile phone in Africa and the latest IoT technologies by providing each user with a solar panel, as well as a 5.0-inch 4G Android smartphone, the TS-X, combined with inclusive data allowance every month, turning the phone into a modem and enabling communities in rural areas to access the internet.
Trend Solar’s recently-concluded beta period has seen 500 units sold from its hubs in Dar es Salaam, Geita and Bagamoyo, and the company plans to deploy thousands more systems throughout rural East Africa. It currently has 30 agents across the region.
“With Trend Solar, we are solving the ‘digital inclusivity trilemma’, by providing an affordable smartphone plus mobile data plus home recharging possibility. We are disrupting how emerging markets access electricity and internet, by being the first company in the world to assimilate a smartphone and a solar home system,” said Trend Solar co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Irfan Mirza.
“We know that access to energy is just the beginning of the journey for our customers, which is why our product team develop innovations in technology that unlock more than just energy – we connect our customers to the wider world.”
Mirza said feedback received from customers during beta testing had outperformed the startup’s expectations, with the addition of the TS-X smartphone proving to be a stand out function for users who previously had no means of accessing the internet.
“Now, we are ideally positioned to grow our user-base rapidly across East Africa, in a bid to supply power to the 36 million people in Tanzania alone, who live off-grid, as well as providing them with opportunity to become digitally inclusive,” he said.