Mount Everest now has 3G coverage, allowing climbers and area residents to make calls without a satellite phone.
Mount Everest is now wired for voice and data, courtesy of
Swedish telecom company TeliaSonera and Ncell, its Nepalese subsidiary. Ncell
plans to extend mobile coverage to the majority of the country's population by
the end of next year.
The 3G base stations in the Everest area-including one
located at 17,000 feet-would give climbers the ability to place calls without a
satellite phone, as well as surf the Web. TeliaSonera claimed in an Oct. 28 press
release that calling rates would be cheaper than for "the average satellite
"We are very proud to announce the world's highest mobile
data service as we launch 3G services in the Mount Everest area in the Khumbu
valley," Lars Nyberg, president and CEO of TeliaSonera, wrote
in an Oct. 28 statement
. "From its perch on the world's tallest mountain,
3G high speed Internet will bring faster, more affordable telecommunication
services to the people living in the Khumbu Valley, trekkers and climbers
Nyberg added: "This is a great milestone for mobile
communications, and strong evidence of TeliaSonera's pioneering role in this
industry that is truly changing the lives of billions of people."
Less than one-third of native Nepalese have access to
telecommunications, according to TeliaSonera, up from around 15 percent in
2008. The company plans on investing an additional $100 million to expand the
country's mobile coverage to 90 percent of the population by 2011.
Some 30,000 people visit the region every year, according
to the Associated Press
. Of those, hundreds climb at least some of
Everest's intimidating slopes. Having 3G coverage could potentially help
climbers react more quickly to the mountain's potentially hazardous shifts in
wind and weather.
Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese Sherpa
climber, were the first to officially reach Everest's summit in 1953. They
carried ice axes and oxygen tanks but nothing capable of running an app.
Pasi Koistinen, Ncell's CEO, claimed in a BBC
article that coverage would extend to the top of Everest's 29,029-foot peak
However, no climbers have verified that fact, at least not yet. That'll have to
wait until the first person posts a Facebook or Foursquare update from the top
of the world.