Was Making A Cell Phone Call From The Top Of Mount Everest Really Necessary? - InformationWeek

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5/23/2007
10:25 AM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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Was Making A Cell Phone Call From The Top Of Mount Everest Really Necessary?

I smell a publicity stunt. Seriously. I've been an armchair climber of Mount Everest for about 12 years now. I think I've read every book on the subject, and I follow each season's news of summit attempts. What makes the news seem less spectacular is that China set up mobile (i.e., temporary) base stations so the call could be completed, and the climber's trip was sponsored by Motorola. Did the parties involved really prove anything new here? No, they didn't. They do, however, get bragging right

I smell a publicity stunt. Seriously. I've been an armchair climber of Mount Everest for about 12 years now. I think I've read every book on the subject, and I follow each season's news of summit attempts. What makes the news seem less spectacular is that China set up mobile (i.e., temporary) base stations so the call could be completed, and the climber's trip was sponsored by Motorola. Did the parties involved really prove anything new here? No, they didn't. They do, however, get bragging rights. And that's what matters.From now on, British climber Rod Baber will be known as the man who made the highest cell phone call in the world. (We'll just have to forget that engineers tested making cell phone calls from airplanes.)

He made the call on May 21 as he stood on the summit of the world's tallest peak. China provided the "network" and Motorola provided the handset (a MotoRizr Z8, running Symbian OS). Baber made two calls. One to a voice mail account and another to his wife and kids. He also sent a text message. Baber had to tape the batteries of the Z8 to his body so they would retain enough of a charge to make the call once he reached the summit.

If there's one thing I've learned in reading about Mount Everest, or Chomolungma as it is known to Tibetans, it's that people just don't belong there. There's barely enough oxygen at that altitude to survive. The temperatures are often 20 to 30 degrees below zero, the winds are intense. And the Khumbu Icefall (part of a glacier snaking its way through the Himalaya) is full of crevasses and other deadly pitfalls. Are wireless communications in such an environment critical for survival? You betcha. Are cell phones the best choice? Probably not. Short-range radios are a better bet.

Now that it's been done, though, Motorola can thumb its nose at every other cell phone manufacturer and say, "Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyaaahhh."

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