What’s a nice Scandinavian company like TeliaSonera doing in a place like this (Mount Everest)? The company has established a 3G base station at about 17,000 feet at the foot of Mount Everest that will enable mountain climbers at the 29,035-foot summit to surf the Internet and even send videos of their exploits.
TeliaSonera owns 80% of Ncell Nepal, which set up four solar-operated base stations and four traditional towers in the region. One station is located at the region’s airport in Lukla at about 9,400 feet. Like the mountaineers who struggled for decades to reach the Everest summit -- it was first climbed in 1953 -- telecommunications companies have struggled to establish service at the world’s highest mountain.
First, it was China Mobile, which actually placed a cell tower at 21,315 feet on the mountain. Using Sherpa porters and yaks to ascend the mountain, the China Mobile team struggled mightily because the oxygen level at that altitude was just 38% of ground-level oxygen. The China Mobile voice effort was established in 2007 in preparation for the Beijing Olympics.
To prove the efficiency of the China Mobile system, Rod Baber, an English climber, climbed to the Mount Everest summit and successfully made calls. So his cell phone’s batteries wouldn’t freeze, Baber strapped the batteries to his body. In 2009, Nepal Telecom inaugurated GSM and CDMA coverage on the mountain using satellite as well as ground antennas. As mountain climbers have flocked to Mount Everest in recent years, the various calling services are a safety aid. Nepal Telecom has said that its system is capable of handling 3,000 calls simultaneously. For years, satellite phones provided voice service to climbers and rescue workers, but the erratic weather in the region often rendered satellite service ineffective. Sherpa guides praised the new service. “The erratic and expensive satellite connection that many times does not work for days will be replaced with this service, making it possible for all climbers to keep in touch with their organizers and families,” said Ang Tshering Sherpa, according to media reports. He is a member of the International Mountain Protection Commission.
TeliaSonera said about $100 million will be invested in the next year in the region to bring mobile coverage to about 90% of Nepal’s population.