Climbers on Mount Everest get 3G service on the summit

Cell phone service now even on Mt. Everest CC by Ryszard Paw?owski/Wikimedia Commons

Mount Everest is now the world’s highest hotspot after a Swedish telecommunications company announced the launch of 3G service in Nepal. The chief executive of Ncell, a subsidiary of TeliaSonera, said the highest video call ever was made from the Mount Everest base camp Friday. The Nepal 3G network will allow climbers mobile Internet from the summit of Everest and bring 21st century telecommunications to one of the world’s poorest countries.

The highest 3G base station in the world

The 3G at Mount Everest will greatly benefit climbers. They had to use satellite phones to talk to anyone while up there before. Ncell has set up coverage with a series of eight 3G base stations. It built the highest one at 17,000 feet near Mount Everest in a village called Gorakshep. Getting real time weather reports will be handy for the climbers. Everest 3G will also be good for emergency communications. But Ncell emphasized that for the first time locals will be able to surf the Web, send e-mail and make calls at rates cheaper than satellite phones.

Everest communications

A documented 3,000 people have made the trip to Mount Everest and climbed it. Records start in 1953 when Sir Edmund Hilary first climbed the mountain. Back then climbers used runners to relay messages from their expeditions to the nearest telegraph office. Carrying the equipment for a satellite phone weighed them down 220 pounds. That was how much it weighed when a climber living in Nepal, Veikka Gustafsson, first came to the Himalayas, reports TeliaSonera. Since 2007, the only coverage at Mount Everest in China was the partial service from China Mobile.

3G affects Nepal

Telecommunication services is something less than one-third of the people in Nepal have access to. It is almost impossible to build land-based networks while building a cellular tower is really hard because the mountain is so jagged. Commenting about the Everest 3G network, Gustafsson said:

“It’s hard for people in the Western world to even imagine what it means for people living in distant villages in valleys separated by high mountains when they now make their first phone call to relatives or are able to contact a doctor over the phone.”

There are 3.7 subscribers to Ncell in Nepal right now. The 3G service is likely to increase that number drastically. By the end of 2011, TeliaSonera plans on having 90 percent of the population in Nepal covered by investing $100 million.


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