In the HumanEdgeTech Review published yesterday of Everest and expedition phones 2011, ExplorersWeb covered the (scant) information regarding TeliaSonera's mobile service on Everest. Today, the company returned with details. Here goes.
TeliaSonera's Press Officer Iréne Krohn in Sweden told ExplorersWeb in an email that "climbers should definitely continue to bring their satellite phones on the climb."
"The highest point where we have 3G coverage is Kalapatar at 5600 meters," Krohn wrote, "even though in good conditions it could work higher." (Check map in image for locations of the base stations.)
The base stations in the Everest region are all powered by solar (from Sunchtech) except for Lukla that also has a backup diesel generator. There are 8 base stations in the Everest region, out of which 5 with 3G (Lukla, Namche Bazaar, Everest View Hotel, Tyangboche and Gorakshep). Nepal in total has 150 base stations with 3G (Kathmandu, Biratnagar, Birgunj, Hetauda, Butwal, Dharan, Bhairahawa, Bharatpur, Itahari, Banepa, Bhadrapur, Pokhara, Nepalgunj and Janakpur, with continuous expansion).
In a phone call from Ncell's CEO office in Nepal, Corporate Communication Manager Sanju Koirala told ExplorersWeb that the data speed to be expected from the 3G station at Kalapatar, "basically depends on the numbers of users, but you can get speed up to 3.6mbps."
Foreigners can buy Ncell SIM card in Kathmandu and use in their cell phones. "Anyone can buy one of our SIM prepaid plan. With a picture and identification, in foreigners' case with the passport," Koirala said. It is also possible to roam with an iPhone from Kathmandu, she confirmed to ExplorersWeb. The iPhone's built-in SIM however prevents change of card so roaming at around $4 can't be escaped.
Short term prepaid Ncell plans are not yet available in Kathmandu for foreigners, but "it's the same for everyone," Sanju added.
Climbers reported to HumanEdgeTech that currently there is good coverage in Everest BC and intermittent coverage on Ama Dablam standard route. Mark Sedon from Adventure Consultants told ExWeb, "but it is very slow and apparently only good for small emails." According to him, it further seemed that the good rates would only apply to the Nepalese, which now has been rejected by Ncell.
The connection has not been tested higher than BC.
American MountainGuides Everest outfitter Eric Simonson reported on his website in November that there was no cell service in Lobuche BC and at Ama Dablam BC they had to walk about 200m out of camp to hit the cell tower.
"My impression is that the sat phones will still be needed by expeditions to provide redundancy, as the cell service is still spotty in the upper valley," he concluded.
No other 8000 meter peaks in Himalaya or Karakoram have reported cell phone coverage.
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