It happens all the time: you're climbing Mount Everest, and you want to send a text message on your cell to your friend: FMBO! (freezing my butt off). L8R, Dude!” but you can't get a signal.
Well, no longer. Nepali telecom company Ncell, together with its parent company TeliaSonera (News - Alert), today launched Nepal's first 3G services at the base camp of Mount Everest. The installation is expected to help the tens of thousands of mountain climbers and trekkers who visit the Mount Everest region in the Solukhumbu district every year. Prior to this 3G installation, climbers had to rely on astronomically (no pun intended) expensive satellite phones.
“This achievement is as mighty as the altitude as 3G high speed internet will bring faster, more affordable telecommunication services to the people living in the Khumbu Valley, trekkers and climbers alike," said Lars Nyberg, chief of Nordic telecoms firm TeliaSonera, which owns 80 percent of the firm. Ncell is a joint venture between local investors and TeliaSonera.
Bringing 3G wireless coverage to the world's tallest mountain is a bit of a coup: other networks had also been vying to put a system in place on the mountain. State-owned Nepal Telecom, Indian-owned United Telecom and, on the other side of the mountain range, China Mobile (News - Alert) (Mount Everest straddles the Nepal/China border) had all sought to accomplish the feat first.
“Today we made the (world's) highest video call from Mount Everest,” Ncell chief Pasi Koistinen told reporters in Kathmandu, Nepal, referring to the call made from 5,300 meters (17,388 feet), the area from where climbers begin the actual climb to Mount Everest.
The set-up will provide people who live and climb in the area with high-speed Web surfing, Web-based video and IP phone calls to friends and family back home at far cheaper rates than the average satellite phone, according to Ncell.
Only one-third of Nepal's population of 28 million people have access to telecommunication services. Nepal is Southeast Asia's poorest country. Ncell said TeliaSonera would spend over $100 million to expand its facilities in Nepal next year and ensure mobile coverage to more than 90 percent of the Himalayan nation's population.Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Stefanie Mosca