Hauling middle-aged millionaires up Mount Everest is big business these days. But one thing that's been missing up to now is the ability to email self-congratulatory photos and video to one's loved ones from a mobile phone.
But Ncell, the Nepalese subsidiary of Swedish phone company TeliaSonera, has now put that right by launching 3G services in the area. By the end of 2011, Ncell says, it will provide mobile coverage to over 90 percent of the people in Nepal, far more cheaply than using a satellite phone.
"This is a great milestone for mobile communications, and strong evidence of TeliaSonera’s pioneering role in this industry that is truly changing the lives of billions of people”, said Lars Nyberg, President and CEO of TeliaSonera.
"We are very proud to announce the world’s highest mobile data service as we launch 3G services in the Mount Everest area in the Khumbu valley. From its perch on the world’s tallest mountain, 3G high speed internet will bring faster, more affordable telecommunication services to the people living in the Khumbu Valley, trekkers, and climbers alike."
At 5,200 meters, one of the new 3G base stations is the highest in the world. Powered by solar energy, it will serve Everest base camp, although the signal will not reach as far as the peak.
Mobile penetration in Nepal is still low, but rapidly growing. Over the last two years, it's risen from 15 percent to over 30 percent.
TeliaSonera says it plans to invest over $100 million in the country next year, aiming to bring mobile coverage to over 90 percent of the population, with 3G coverage in all major cities and other densely populated areas.