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Mount Everest gets world’s highest 3G network

The world’s most intrepid mountain climbers can now check their progress on Google Maps, stream video, and update Facebook statuses along their journey to the top of Mount Everest. Ncell, a Nepalese mobile communications company, has announced that, as of today, 3G service is available on the world’s highest mountain and surrounding areas. Previously, climbers had to rely on expensive satellite phones and a voice-only mobile network set up on China’s side of the mountain. Ncell says that the new data network is capable of speeds up to 3.6MB per second. The company says there’s potential to increase that to 7.2MB per second if there’s enough demand.

Foursquare check-ins and tweeting aside, the presence of the network will have plenty of practical applications for mountaineers. In addition to expanded communication, climbers will be able to monitor weather reports and receive safety updates with greater reliability.

The service was made possible through the installation of eight 3G base stations, four of which are solar powered, along the way up to Everest’s base camp. It’s not clear if climbers can expect coverage all the way to the summit, which lies just above 29,000 feet. The highest of the 3G stations is at around 17,000 feet. But Ncell did say that it tested the network by making the “world’s highest video call” near base camp at about 17,300 feet

It’s not only climbers who are set to benefit from the 3G expansion. Ncell plans on bringing wider 3G coverage to the surrounding areas of Nepal in the near future.