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 6,500 metres, the Xinhua News Agency said. The new station, along with two other China Mobile stations at 5,200 metres and 5,820 metres, would provide cell phone service along the entire Mt Everest climbing route.
It would also be put into use during next year's Olympic torch relay, which will take the flame to the 8,850-metre 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% of what it would be on the ground, the spokesman said.
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.
Organizsers of the Beijing Games plan to stage the longest torch relay in Olympic history.
Taking the torch up Everest is technically challenging. While Beijing hopes the feat will impress the world, groups critical of China's harsh 57-year rule over Tibet have decried the torch route as a stunt meant to lend legitimacy to Chinese control.