3G at the top of the world

Science & Technology/Student Living by

“Because it’s there,” was George Mallory’s response when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest. Mallory, an English mountaineer, took part in one of the first three British expeditions to Everest in the early 1920s. 90 years later, climbing has come much farther than anyone might have imagined: 3G service has finally managed to conquer the highest reaches of the earth.

After Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s historic ascent in 1953, some 3000 people have now reached the mountain’s summit. During the first years of climbing, runners transmitted messages to the nearest telegraph office. Next came 220 pounds of satellite phone equipment which climbers lugged to the summit, enabling communication with the earth below. Now,  the Nepalese telecoms firm Ncell provides climbers with the highest 3G base station to date, located near Everest’s base camp at 5200 metres.

Making the news only a year ago, this service now allows mountaineers to surf the web all the way to the summit. Just think, after making the gruelling ascent up the slope, you may look around, pause, and then post a Facebook status update along with a mobile upload of your face with the Himalayas as a background.

China Mobile has offered mobile coverage on Everest’s China-facing slope since 2007, but this was voice only. This new 3G service is certainly an improvement and will undoubtedly prove helpful in cases of emergency. What’s more, plans include increasing cell phone coverage in Nepal to 90 percent of the population by the end of 2011. To date, only about one third of the population has access telecommunication services.

The first official 3G call from the summit was made by Kenton Cool, an English mountaineer with an awesome name. On May 6, 2011, upon reaching the summit for his ninth time, Cool called his wife, Jazz. As his YouTube video depicts, Cool’s eyebrows and eyelashes are covered in frost as he dials his wife’s number. “It’s ringing!” he said excitedly, “Oh my god!” After telling her he’s made it to the top, he reassures her that everything is okay. As for any typical wife whose husband is climbing the infamous mountain, yet again, nerves are probably a natural reaction to a phone call from the summit. After hanging up, he emotionally exclaims “I just called my wife from the top of the world!”

It’s still somewhat mind-boggling that the life-taking, mountain-of-all-mountains now has internet and cell reception. Much like Mallory’s answer, the response to why 3G was brought to the pinnacle of the world can be “Because it’s there.”