Mt Everest now has cell phone service

Nepali cell phone company Ncell announced this week that they have activated a cell tower in Mt. Everest base camp, providing reliable 3G coverage on the mountain for the first time. To commemorate the launch of the service, the technicians completed the highest altitude video call ever from 5300 meters (17,388 feet) on the mountain.

Ncell’s service will replace expensive, and often unreliable, satellite phones, which can be easily disrupted by bad weather and technical issues. Sat phones have been the defacto standard on Everest for years but the new cell service offers not only improved voice communications, but also a relatively speedy data connection all the way to the summit, located at 8849 meters (29,035 feet). That data connection will allow for photos, audio, and even video to be shared by climbers.

The new cell tower won’t just provide coverage for climbers and trekkers on and around Everest however. It will also give Nepali citizens living in the Khumbu Valley the ability to make phone calls for the very first time. The remote region has few modern conveniences, but in a country that only has cell coverage for about a third of its people, this is a big step forward for communications. Ncell, and it’s partner TeliaSonera, plan to spend about $100 million to expand coverage to 90% of Nepal’s population by the end of next year. Considering the challenges of travel in the Himalaya, that will be quite a feat.

It is impressive that visitors to Mt. Everest can now make a phone call, even while standing on the summit. Now if only AT&T could eliminate the dead zones in my home town. Then I’ll be really impressed.

New international travel phone service from National Geographic

National Geographic and Cellular Abroad have joined forces to introduce a new option for those who need to stay in contact while traveling the world. The National Geographic Travel Phone includes an unlocked Motorola handset, a charger that comes complete with international outlet adapters, and a Nat Geo SIM Card, all for just $99. A second phone, dubbed the National Geographic Duet, is also available and includes all of the above, plus dual SIM Card slots, a larger screen, upgraded performance, and additional features for $179.

The new pay-as-you-go service works in more than 150 countries across Europe, Asia, and Africa, and includes free incoming calls in more than 70 countries, plus 30 minutes of credit for outgoing calls in most countries as well. The service comes complete with two phone numbers, one based in the U.S. and the other the U.K., and both are always active and do not require a monthly fee. The U.S. based number also works for text messages and call-forwarding too.

For more information on both handsets and the Cellular Abroad service check out this page. You’ll not only find a list of countries in which the phones will work, you’ll get a breakdown on the costs and services, and a handy calculator to help you determine just how much you’ll pay when calling from one country to another.

For frequent travelers, this looks like a great option for staying in touch while abroad. The list of countries where these phones work is quite impressive, which can save you time and hassle when looking for SIM Cards after you arrive at your destination.

Malaysia Airlines First in Asia to Offer In-Flight Mobile Phone Service

Malaysia Airlines has received and installed an in-flight mobile phone system designed by AeroMobile on one of its Boeing 777s. Passengers will be able to safely use their cell phones and PDAs during the cruise portion of the flight without interfering with the aircraft’s navigational controls and communication.

The system has been tested extensively over the past few weeks. Cabin crews will be given the green light to “advise” especially chatty passengers to be mindful of others during long haul or overnight flights. The service will be available on regional and international flights to Australia, Africa and the Middle East.

Passengers who choose to use the service will be billed by their own cell phone providers. Roaming, international and out-of-network charges will be applied. Currently, AeroMobile is working with Malaysian cell phone service providers to ensure that users won’t hit any snags if the try to make in-flight calls while in international airspace.

[Via My Sinchew]