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Stay connected, even on Everest

New Delhi, April 24: If you’re thinking of climbing the Everest, carry your mobile phone along.

Chances are you’re not that ambitious but there are climbers and climbers. The China Mountaineering Institute is organising an expedition to Mount Everest and the team members are expected to carry Motorola phones which can send short text messages (SMS) and multimedia messages, or MMS — the new craze.

China — ahead of India in many things — is also getting to the top of Sagarmata, the Nepalese term for Everest, first. Its vehicle for this technological marvel will be China Mobile, a large cellular service operator in the Communist country, which is establishing a GSM (global system for mobile communications) base station on Everest. GSM is the technology used in mobile phones.

“GSM will attain the pinnacle of achievement by providing mobile coverage on the world’s tallest peak. We expected the mobile to work wonders and this proves it,” says T.V. Ramchandran, director-general of the Cellular Operators’ Association of India.

But it’s not that China has no competition at all. And who but the Americans to take it on — Cisco, the US multinational, has decided to establish the world’s highest and most remote wireless data communications network on Everest.

There lies the story of a hot telecom tussle on the icy slopes of the world’s tallest peak at 29,035 feet because the technology Cisco is using is Wi-Fi, which is still nascent but is gaining popularity because it provides Internet link to the laptop or a hand-held device like the palmtop, even a cellphone.

This means the expedition to mark the 50th anniversary of Tenzing and Hillary’s climb to the top on May 29, 1953, can technically surf the Net if it carries a laptop computer and a net-enabled mobile phone.

Tenzing and Hillary had no way of telling the world that they had been where no one else had been before once they reached the top at 11.30 that morning.

They returned to the lower camp and sent a message through wireless radio.

The team that will follow in their footsteps — taking the same route and aiming to reach the top on the same date and at the same time — can now have access to technology that will allow them to send their pictures to their wives or mothers standing on top of Everest instantly.

There is a niggling suspicion in some quarters that China’s bid to go up the Everest with a state-of-the-art communication system might raise security concerns for India.

An industry expert said: “It is indeed a technological advancement but security issues will have to be examined irrespective of whether the technology is GSM or wi-fi.”

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