CAIRO: Wind turbine firm Zephyr is close to a deal with an Egyptian mobile firm to bolster network coverage for tourists, whose roaming rates offer a lucrative market, and trim remote area operating costs, executives said.

The privately owned Japan-based company, whose clients include Vodafone and Turkcell, hopes windswept areas along the Red Sea coast will help it enter a market for base stations in Egypt it sees worth about $200 million this year.

Zephyr extrapolated from talks with the three mobile operators – Vodafone Egypt, Mobinil and Etisalat Egypt – that 2,000 base stations will be built this year. It estimates sites cost an average $100,000 to set up.

“A portion of that, 10, 20, 30 percent could be green. It could be less, it could be much more,” Zephyr’s Europe, Middle East and Africa general manager Mats Vilander said in an interview. Of that slice, Zephyr hopes to grab 5 to 10 percent.

Egypt’s Red Sea coast already boasts several wind-power plants and more are planned, while mobile phone service is spotty in and around diving spots such as Hurghada and Ain Sukhna that draw millions of tourists each year.

Vilander said draughts along parts of the Red Sea coast move at an average speed of 10 meters per second, making the area attractive for wind turbine-powered base stations.

Solar energy still dominates the supply of renewable energy for mobile network infrastructure, but Zephyr is banking on a rise in wind power.

The company estimates 46 percent of the $277 billion global telecom infrastructure market will be “green” by 2013.

Zephyr is also eyeing opportunities in Morocco, Yemen, Libya and Sudan. It says its small wind turbines, at a cost of $25,000, can slash off-grid operating costs by aiding or replacing diesel as a power source for remote masts and base stations.

The firm expects to close a deal with an Egyptian operator within two months, Vilander said, adding it was too early to name the firm, but it was not Vodafone’s Egypt unit.

The other two operators in Egypt are a unit of Abu Dhabi-listed Etisalat and Mobinil, co-owned by Cairo-based Orascom Telecom and France Telecom.