Hiking tourism facilitated by the free WiFi project in the Himalayan region

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Hiking tourism facilitated by the free WiFi project in the Himalayan region
Hiking tourism facilitated by the free WiFi project in the Himalayan region

Samde Sherpa has just arrived in Kathmandu after completing the 15-day trek of Everest Base Camp i.e. ABC. Profession ‘Trek Guide’ He has been involved in this profession continuously since 2005.

Mountains that he has never climbed are rare, he says.

Samde, an experienced guide who has been traveling in the mountains for about 17 years, finds it difficult to keep up with his family and the world during the trek.

According to him, there are many inconveniences while trekking in the mountainous region. Disasters like avalanches can happen at any time.

There is a personal problem. But for a guide like Samde, the responsibility of hiking guests is another embarrassing problem.

“Sometimes when the client is sick, there is no way to contact the office. In that case, there is an emergency.” He tells

If there is a phone network then the problem is solved but if not then the misfortune of the journey is there.

This is one of the biggest challenges for new and solo hikers.

Every year a large number of tourists get lost. This is done by downloading the offline map and using it, but it also does not work well in the open sky invisible grooves.

Offline maps show the direction but not the distance.

Photojournalist and mountaineer Purnima Shrestha says that it is difficult to access the much-needed seasonal updates for mountaineers without internet.

The mountainous region of Nepal, which has become a world famous destination for hiking tourism, has not yet developed the infrastructure of phone and internet for reliable communication.

Telecommunications companies have moved towers to a number of locations with limited coverage. But mobile data has not reached the Internet.

In such a situation, the regulatory Nepal Telecommunication Authority under the Rural Telecommunication Development Fund has now launched a project to expand free WiFi on two mountainous routes. In the first phase, ABC’s ‘Trek Route’ and in the second phase, Annapurna Circuit’s ‘Trek Route’. NEA, meanwhile, has recently awarded a tender award to WorldLink Communications for the third Manaslu Himal.

Everestlink Communications, which got the contract for the expansion of Wi-Fi in ABC, has already completed the work of free Wi-Fi expansion last April (one month ago).

EverestLink now extends free WiFi to Everest Base Camp via Fakding, Monjo, Namche, Tengboche, Pangboche, Dingboche, Feriche, Lobuche and Gorchep on the route from Lukla to ABC.

In this trail, EverestLink has continuously expanded the Internet.

However, Everestlink, a company that has been providing internet service in high mountainous areas, started providing internet service on EBC route as soon as it was registered in 2015.

At that time, EverestLink provided internet in those areas by connecting from radio frequency. Due to which the price was very expensive.

Shrestha, a mountaineer, had just returned to Kathmandu after climbing the Kanchenjunga mountain. He has a bad experience of having to buy 6 GB data of EverestLink for Rs 20,000 when he went to EBC in 2018.

“I paid Rs 20,000 on ABC in 2018 for 6 GB of data, but not even 1 week was enough.” Purnima told ICT News.

But now the situation has changed, says Manish Dewan, general manager of Everestlink. He said that EverestLink is now selling data at an average of 16 paisa per MB by changing the technology infrastructure of the internet under the project of NEA.

Now EverestLink has replaced radio frequency technology with optical fiber and WiFi hotspot antenna routes.

The company has installed WiFi hotspot antennas at various places from Lukla to the base camp. And by connecting these antennas, fiber backbone has been laid from Lukla to Gorchep to provide uninterrupted internet. But since it was not possible to extend the fiber backbone of the internet from Terai to Lukla, the internet has been brought to the gap area through radio frequency.

General Manager Dewan claims that the internet service has become more quality by completely changing the technology. “It was easy to expand the service by extending the antenna through the previous radio frequency connection. But the technology is very sensitive to the weather, the unstable weather of the mountains and therefore the reliability and quality was low. Dewan told ICT News.

Now the price is cheaper and the quality is better, says Dewan. EverestLink sells data to pedestrians in two packages. There is a 20 GB package of Rs 2999 which costs 14 paisa per MB. Similarly, there is a second 10 GB package of Rs. 19999 which is priced at 19 paisa per MB.
But Samde says that even when he bought the data from Everestlink, he did not get any quality.

“Internet is cheaper now, but the quality is not good. There is still buffering, ‘he said.

Although the project was advertised as free WiFi, it is not really free WiFi, says Deputy Director Mishra.

“After paying for some time for free, this internet is free.”

According to Dewan, NEA has wrongly chosen the word “free WiFi” in the project.

“It’s not free WiFi, in fact it’s called WiFi Access in Everest Base Camp. This name is wrong. ‘ Dewan said.

Dewan says that data cannot be provided free of cost due to high cost of infrastructure development and internet operation in high mountainous areas.

Everestlink now offers free internet for a short time to register and login. Dewan says that such cards will be available in every hotel along the route.

Operating expenses

Dewan says operating costs will be too expensive to expand the Internet on the ABC route. Due to the high demand for bandwidth in mountainous areas, the antennas used for infrastructure expansion are also more premium than in general geography.

According to Dewan, fiber cannot be pulled from the ground like in other places. Expensive direct beryl fiber should be used which is very expensive to do ducting, piping and laying.

‘It is difficult to work in winter. Even if it breaks down, it is difficult to bring manpower, to reach logistically, to deliver goods. ‘ He said.

‘Goods must be stockpiled first. It is not possible to bring the goods by car, it is just as expensive to transport them by helicopter.

Although the cost is higher than in general geography, the collaboration with NEA has now helped in expanding the internet and improving the coverage, said Dewan, adding that Everestlink plans to make the data as cheap as possible.

Dewan says that the company has completed all the work in Annapurna circuit area from its own level.

The company has worked in five districts to expand internet in Annapurna circuit. There is a rattlesnake from Lamjung’s Bahun Danda to Manang’s main area and Mustang’s Thorongla. While all the work has been completed in Manang area, the final phase of monitoring is yet to be done in Mustang.

Dewan says that the project has benefited not only the tourists in the Himalayan region but also the people’s life in the Himalayas.
‘In the past, the locals of Khumbu area used to buy expensive mobile phones and keep them at home. There was no connection to run, ‘says Dewan, referring to the changes brought by WiFi at the local level. It has also contributed to digital literacy. Now they are watching everything from the weather report, the way of cooking, everything in the world on their mobile phones. ‘

He said that it was a great pleasure for him to be able to show his relatives live in the place where he was walking.

Samde is also happy with the recent development but not satisfied.

How many more have reached Samde in the mountainous areas of Nepal where the internet and even the phone network are hard to come by.

He said that since the symptoms of altitude are seen in the area above 3000 meters, the internet should be expanded in the area above 3000 or 4000 meters as much as possible.

‘Clients get very sick at altitude. Internet phone network should be good in such areas, but it is rarely found in places.

He says that if the internet reaches those areas, it will be better in tourism promotion.