3G Coverage Climbs Mt. Everest

by Matt Klassen on November 4, 2010

While its hardly newsworthy to state the fact that 3G coverage has now covered almost the entire globe (except if you’re in San Francisco), when network connectivity finally reaches the highest—and not to mention one of the most remote—point on the globe, it’s certainly worth a mention.

Although advanced communications technology has brought the world together as an unprecedented global community, for anyone who has travelled through the barren moonscape of the Himalayan Mountain range separating Tibet and Nepal it’s abundantly clear that there still are some places on this earth where you are still isolated and alone.

But even there at a staggering 5,200 meters locals, hikers and annoying tourists alike are no longer beyond the reach of the ever-expanding 3G network, meaning that visitors to the base camp or even adventure seekers at the dizzying 8,848m summit of the great mountain will have no problem sending video messages, updating their Facebook statuses, and staying connected to their loved ones.

Until recently visitors to the highest mountain in the world were forced to communicate through regualr mail, the odd satellite phone or through China Mobile’s regular cell network, although that was only available on the Chinese side of the mountain. That meant that if you wanted to have a video chat with your friends back home while standing on the summit or simply surf the Internet to find out what the Tibetan name for the mountain meant, you were simply out of luck.

But Nepalese telecommunications company Ncell, in partnership with Sweden’s TeliaSonera, has constructed the 3G enabled mast at a height of 5,200 metres, granting the entire mountain—including the summit—3G coverage, although it remains to be seen how many bars will be available to those who venture into Everest’s “Dead Zone” near the summit.

That being said, I’ll be quite honest, I’m not sure how I feel about some of the last unspoiled places on this earth falling under the umbrella of 3G network coverage. It was bad enough this past summer, as I stood at the base of Mt. Everest, to have that one perfect moment spoiled by tourists madly texting and making phone calls on China Mobile’s regular cell network, but it just seems that much worse to know that instead of enjoying the mountain Tibetans call the Holy Mother of the World visitors will be downloading apps, surfing the web, and otherwise augmenting their experience with technological devices—okay okay, so I was augmenting my own experience with my 12 megapixel digital SLR camera, so sue me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand the benefits of technology and I know that I’m naïve to think that there should exist pockets of the world untainted by it, but that still doesn’t stop me from lamenting the fact that Mt. Everest has lost some of its appeal.

I had a similar feeling several years ago when I was staying with a group of nomadic Bedouins in the Jordanian dessert, thinking to myself that I had finally found a place on earth untouched by technology, only to step outside and see three Bedouin men talking loudly on their ubiquitous Nokia phones.

Should the Tibetan and Nepalese citizens eking out their existence in the harsh Himalayan landscape be forever doomed to live without technology? Of course not, but at the same time let’s stop and think of how technology will change those people, consider how their way of life will change, and remember the things they will lose because the Internet has invaded their lives. So let me say with a bit of remorse, Mt. Everest, welcome to the technological age.

Photo c/o North West Freelance Services

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca >. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com > by: RSS >, Twitter >, Identi.ca >, or Friendfeed >

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