A very interesting endeavor:
If the 25-below-zero temperature, howling wind and grim effects of altitude sickness do not make most of those trying to scale Mount Everest feel a world away from home, the near-complete lack of communications on and around Everest surely does.
This year, just in time for the 50th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary’s first ascent of Everest, climbers on the mountain will have the chance to connect with the world below by e-mail. That is because Tsering Gyaltsen, the grandson of the only surviving Sherpa to have accompanied Hillary on that famed climb, is planning to build the world’s highest Internet cafe at base camp.
[…]But in contrast to many climber services, this one does not stand to benefit foreign-run outfitters primarily. Although it is an obvious perk for the climbers, the residents of a nearby town may get Internet access because of it, and the mountain may get a bit cleaner.
The technical challenge is significant. Wireless radios will be positioned on moving glaciers, and gear must be insulated against temperatures far colder than they were designed to withstand.
[…]The network will consist of a small satellite dish, planted about 1,500 feet above base camp, that can provide two-way communications. Because the dish must operate from firm ground, it cannot be used directly at base camp, which is on a moving glacier. The $10,000 satellite dish, which Mr. Gyaltsen purchased with a bank loan and funds from Square Networks, will connect to the cybercafe at base camp over the Wi-Fi radios. The dish will beam data to a satellite in orbit and to an Internet service provider in Israel.
[…]Cisco and Mr. Gyaltsen are working out the seemingly endless bureaucratic requirements for importing the radios to Nepal. Once they have arrived, Mr. Gyaltsen will transport them by plane to Lukla, a town at roughly 9,800 feet, then up by yak train to Namche Bazar (more than 11,000 feet) and on to the base camp (nearly 18,000 feet) before the final leg of the trip.
Mr. Gyaltsen and the pollution committee, which will technically own the radios, are still deciding what to charge users. They are considering a flat fee of $2,000 to $5,000 per expedition, which can number 5 to 20 people. That price might sound steep, but Mr. Gyaltsen says it paled in comparison with the cost of the expedition itself, typically $65,000 a person.