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3G mobile heads to Mount Everest; D.C. Metro still drops calls

The Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal. (Strdel/AFP/Getty Images)

Just in case you want to video call grandma to say hello when you finally reach the peak of Mount Everest, you're in luck! Now 3G mobile phone service has reached the top of the peak. Yes, we can hear you now, even from way up there.

A Nepalese telecom group Ncell, a subsidiary of Swedish phone giant TeliaSonera, says people can make video calls and surf the Internet on their mobile phones, thanks to a high-speed phone base station at an altitude of 17,000 feet near Gorakshep village in the Everest region. Ncell made the first video call Friday at 17,388 feet.

Previously, climbers had to rely on satellite phone calls to brag about their ascent.

About 1,400 climbers reach the summit each year. Almost 800,000 people ride the D.C. Metro every single day. I never, ever have 3G coverage when passing through downtown D.C. on the Red Line. Hello, Ncell? Can you help us out?

(Thanks, Justin!)

By Melissa Bell  | October 29, 2010; 10:14 AM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
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What has taken them so long? Sherpas, with my and Cisco corporation's help, did the first two way Internet calling (which included video graphics) all the way to the 18,000 foot Base Camp in May 2003 - on the 50th Anniversary of the first climb of Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary.

Tsering Sherpa, who lives at 15,000 feet at the stop-over village of Namche emailed me in 2003 to help him solve a technical problem. He could, on the backs of 18 Yaks carry up to the 18,000 foot Base Camp an entire satellite base station, its dish antenna, many batteries and solar panels to set up an Internet connection via a satellite. BUT if he set it at the base camp which sits on the Khumba Glacier, it would 'move' 4 feet a day. To hard to keep it aimed.

So he emailed me, a wireless guru, for help. I got Cisco Corporation to donate and get through Nepalese Customs, a pair of Wi-Fi radios and directional antennas and gave Tsering detailed instructions on how to set up the Satellite/battery/solar panel base across the valley 4km at 19,000 feet on solid ground, put one wi fi at the base camp and the other at the satellite base, and RELAY the fast internet (faster than 3g I can assure you) from the satellite to the ground satellite base, then relay the net to the base camp and a tent where many could log on.

It worked,and became the highest Cybercafe in the world at 18,000 feet. The New York Times covered the story starting on 1/23/03

And you can see the entire project on my Linking Everest web site at LOTS of pictures, including many from the base camp itself.

Not to speak of my trekking up to Namche at 15,000 feet in 2004, and helping the Sherpas relay a Skype voice-internet link between Pittsburgh and Thame, Nepal wirelessly plus two satellite hops so young Sherpas could learn enough oral English so they would not be forced to live the rest of their lives carrying heavy loads for Westerners at $5.00 a day.

Posted by: dave19 | October 29, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

You're complaining? Get a life.

Posted by: CharlesYFarley | October 29, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

"top of the peak"? Please do a little bit of research on the fact, it only provides service to the base-camp at 17,000 feet.

Posted by: cal_002 | October 29, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Great! Cell service on Everest, but none in Hume Virginia.

Posted by: wataft1 | October 29, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

I'm from London where we are just about to start providing phone access on parts of the Tube (Metro to you guys;) and you know what? I am spitting tintacks. The underground parts of the Tube, the ones in central London, have until now been a refuge from the Hello-I'm-on-the-train morons whose noisy and tedious conversations (usually more like monologues) make every other sort of public transport (two syllables will do for us here) a misery.

Anyone moaning about having to travel on the Red Line without using her phone should get a life!

Posted by: usti1925 | October 29, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Another correction. 'Gorak Shep' IS a very small village NOT at the Base Camp which is across the Khumbu valley from Base Camp, maybe 5km away. And one does not just trot across that valley at 17-18,000 feet. Just tromping 2 km across relatively level ground, snow, and ice, is a huge energy spender.

So I am not sure how those at the Base Camp (all in temporary tents) could take advantage of a 3g video phone, obviously tucked away inside a building, 5km away.

Posted by: dave19 | October 29, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

When they get a McDonald's at base camp, I'll be impressed.

Posted by: nimbo | October 29, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

And I'm still snatching my neighbors wifi signal with a chicken wire dish antenna.

Posted by: beefeater | October 29, 2010 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Hmph! I can't hear you from the top of my driveway in Boerne, TX. Stop laughing at me you bunch of smug Sherpas.

Posted by: tazzle | October 30, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

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