Free public Wi-Fi to reach new heights on Mount Everest

10 Feb 2017

The view from Mount Everest base camp. Image: Daniel Prudek/Shutterstock

As mountaineers prepare to tackle the feat of climbing Mount Everest, they can rest a bit easier with the knowledge that they can Snapchat their adventure using free, public Wi-Fi.

Despite users regularly being warned about the potential cybersecurity hazards of logging into free public Wi-Fi hotspots in cafés and hotels, it might come as a welcome relief to climbers at Mount Everest.

According to the Hindustan Times, mountaineers planning to climb the world’s tallest land-based mountain have been heavily reliant on communicating with the outside world via an expensive Wi-Fi service, which is available at the mountain’s base camp at a height of 5,360m.

The Nepalese authorities have now announced plans to install a number of free Wi-Fi hotspots at the Lukla-Everest Base Camp area and Annapurna Base Camp to ease the financial burden on weary travellers.

The biggest issue now facing the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) is the geographical challenges of bringing fibre optic cable to such extreme heights and weather conditions.

To overcome this, the NTA said it will use a combination of specially designed cables built to withstand extreme cold and icefall, as well as standard, affordable cables within the base camps.

Will also aid mountain rescue

It will be something of a trial run for Nepal – although it already has limited Wi-Fi at the base camp, these new fibre optic cables might not be up to the task of reaching one of the highest locations in the world.

In that case, the NTA said, it would consider using wireless broadband transmitter services that use microwaves to transmit data, but are less reliable than standard fibre optic cables.

While its inclusion would be sure to make trekkers happy, allowing them to send their latest photos and messages to loved ones from such a unique place, it will also aid in mountain rescue efforts, providing better communication with crews in Kathmandu and elsewhere.

Bringing the internet to some of the most remote areas of the planet has been the focus of many large tech companies, most notable in Facebook’s project as well as Google’s now abandoned Titan venture.

The view from Mount Everest base camp. Image: Daniel Prudek/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic