In a year when there is little to no news coming from Mt. Everest, sometimes you get the most unexpected stories of all. With the mountain completely shutdown on the South Side in Nepal, and just a single 26-person team climbing from the North in Tibet, there isn’t a whole lot to talk about when it comes to the world’s highest peak this spring. But as we wait and watch for eventual summit bids (most likely coming sometime around May 10th or so) there is an interesting update from the mountain after all. Earlier this week it was revealed that China Mobile, working in conjunction with Huawei, has activated 5G cellular service there, bringing super fast Internet and voice communication to a place that was once amongst the most remote on the planet.
Technicians arrived on Everest last week and began the preparation work and acclimatization they would need to get the 5G network up and running. That included sorting and preparing more than 8 tons worth of equipment and hauling it up the mountain. As of now, they have activated three 5G cellular antennas, including one in Base Camp, another at 5300 meters (17,388 ft), and a third at 5800 meters (19,028 ft). Two more of these stations will be installed over the next few days, with the highest getting activated at 6500 meters (21,325 ft). The work is expected to be finished by the weekend, with 5G service then being available across the entire mountain.
Despite the fact that the 5G network isn’t even completed yet, it is already being put to the test. The Chinese team of alpinists on the North Side are reportedly using the service to communicate with friends and family back home, while staying connected to the Internet on the mountain. But China Mobile has also set up a live 4K webcam on Everest, allowing others to check in on the peak from a far. Something that might be appreciated by anyone stuck at home and indoors at the moment. You can check out that feed here.
In reading about this story, I’ve seen a few comments in which individuals talk about what a shame it is that there is now 5G service on Everest. To be clear, there has been cellular coverage on the mountain for years, with China Mobile initially installing 2G coverage, then upgrading it to 3G and LTE over the years. Adding 5G doesn’t spoil or ruin anything, but is instead the natural evolution of communication services that are already there. If anything, we should probably be put off by the fact that Everest has 5G coverage before our neighborhoods do. That said, I do understand the sentiment that Internet access is making the world feel like a smaller, less remote place. But in a time like the one we’re passing through right now, perhaps that’s a good thing.
As for the climbers who are currently on the North Side, from what I gather things are going as expected so far. They have wrapped up a few acclimatization rotations and are already watching the weather reports for a possible summit day. Until that happens, it seems unlikely that we’ll hear much more about their progress.
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