BEIJING – China’s largest cell phone service provider successfully tested a transmission station on Mount Everest on Tuesday, making it possible for climbers and those on next year’s Olympic torch relay to make calls, a state news agency reported.
China Mobile had to hire yaks and porters to help transport equipment up to the station site at 21,325 feet, the Xinhua News Agency said.
The new station, along with two other China Mobile stations at 17,060 feet and 19,095 feet, would provide cell phone service along the entire Mount Everest climbing route, Xinhua said. It would also be put into use during next year’s Olympic torch relay, which will take the flame to the 29,035-foot summit.
A worker called the cell phone of China Mobile general manager Wang Jianzhou on Tuesday afternoon and had a clear signal, Xinhua quoted an unnamed company spokesman as saying.
The construction was "incredibly difficult" because the oxygen level was only 38 percent of what it would be on the ground, the spokesman said.
Immediately after the call to Wang, workers began packing away the equipment for the winter, Xinhua said. The station will be reassembled before the Olympic torch relay next summer.
An official with Tibet Mobile, the Tibetan subsidiary of China Mobile, said the station would operate based on the needs of mountaineers and scientists, Xinhua reported. It was not known whether the two other stations operate on a continuous basis.
Phones rang unanswered at China Mobile’s headquarters in Beijing on Tuesday evening. The Lhasa office of China Mobile did not have a listed telephone number.
Organizers of the Beijing Games plan to stage the longest torch relay in Olympic history — a 85,000-mile, 130-day route that would cross five continents.
Taking the torch up Everest is technically challenging. Aside from the physical challenge of climbing the mountain, which straddles the border of Nepal and Chinese-controlled Tibet, the torch had to be designed to burn in bad weather, low pressure and high altitude.
While Beijing hopes the feat will impress the world, groups critical of China’s often harsh 57-year rule over Tibet have decried the torch route as a stunt meant to lend legitimacy to Chinese control.