Kilimanjaro boasts high-speed internet access so climbers can tweet or Instagram the climb | Mountaineering
Tanzania has installed high-speed internet services on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, allowing anyone with a smartphone to tweet, Instagram or WhatsApp while climbing Africa’s highest mountain.
State-owned Tanzania Telecommunications Corporation set up the broadband network at an altitude of 3,720 meters (12,200 feet) on Tuesday, with the country’s Information Minister Nape Nnauye calling the event historic .
“Before, it was a bit dangerous for visitors and porters who had to operate without the internet,” he said as the service launched, flanked by government officials and tourists.
“All visitors will be connected… [up to] this point on the mountain,” Nnauye told Horombo huts, one of the camps en route to the summit.
He said the 5,895-meter mountain peak would be connected to the internet by the end of the year.
The move is the latest example of efforts to increase connectivity in the world’s wildest places. The first phone call from the summit of Everest was made in 2007, via a Chinese telephone mast.
This is in stark contrast to when Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay summited the world’s tallest mountain on May 29, 1953. News of their achievement didn’t reach the outside world until June 2, just in time to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
More concretely, the considerable advances in communication devices have allowed climbers, ocean navigators and polar explorers to have access to the most recent weather forecasts and to be able to call for help in the event of an emergency.
As mobile phone networks have expanded to increasingly remote locations, small, handheld satellite communication devices such as Garmin’s inReach Mini – which provides tracking, positioning and the ability to send and to receive text messages – have meant that even in polar regions, travelers are never truly disconnected.
The downside, however, as some UK mountain rescue teams have pointed out, is that over-reliance on fallible technology, including navigation software on mobile phones, has led some climbers and walkers to get into trouble. The British Mountaineering Council has repeatedly stated that mobile phones should never be used solely for navigation.
The latest moves on Kilimanjaro follow the Tanzanian government’s announcement of plans to build a cable car on the mountain’s southern slope, sparking outrage from climbers, expedition companies and environmentalists.
Mount Kilimanjaro is a major source of tourist revenue in Tanzania and neighboring Kenya, with around 35,000 people attempting to reach the summit each year.
Immortalized in Ernest Hemingway’s short story The Snows of Kilimanjaro, the mountain is part of a national park as well as being a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Agence France-Presse contributed to this report