Checking In on Everest

Friday, Oct 29, 2010  |  Updated 9:30 AM PDT
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Checking In on Everest

Getty Images

Mount Everest seen from the Kalapattar Plateau some 140kms (87 miles) northeast of Kathmandu, on December 4, 2009. Nepalese ministers held what they said was the world's highest ever cabinet meeting at 5,262 metres (17,192 feet) to highlight the impact of climate change on the Himalayas. AFP PHOTO/Prakash MATHEMA (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)

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How's this for a Facebook status update: "About to start scaling Mount Everest."

Should they have time to check e-mails, climbers attempting to scale the world's highest peak now have access to high-speed Internet near its 17,000-foot (5,200-meter) base camp, the last gathering point on the journey to the top.

Ncell, a subsidiary of Swedish telecom company TeliaSonera, announced Friday that they have set up seven 3G base stations in the Everest region, allowing climbers and trekkers to access wireless Internet and make video calls, for example over Skype.

Thousands of trekkers from all over the world walk to the base camp every year. Hundreds of mountaineers go further up the slopes of the peak to the 29,035-foot (8,850-meter) summit.

In the past, they were forced to carry heavy satellite equipment to the base camp to transmit information and images. Trekkers and villagers were able to talk on cell phones at lower levels, but could not access the Internet.

NCell official Pasi Kostinen said they hope to soon expand the service in the region, where a few thousand people live and 30,000 visit each year.

NCell is a private company based in Nepal. The majority of its shares are controlled by foreign investors, with TeliaSonera having the largest stake.

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