Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Lukla-Everest, Annapurna base camps to get free Wi-Fi

The government is planning to set up free wi-fi zones along the trials of Lukla-Everest Base Camp (EBC) area and Annapurna Base Camp.
Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) today announced its plan to expand internet facility to Everest Base Camp (EBC) and Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) to facilitate trekkers.
Chairman of the authority Digambar Jha, speaking during during a programme 'Nepal Broadband Forum 2017 – Enabling Digital Economy For a Better Connected Nepal: Transforming Nepal into a Broadband Nation By 2022', informed that NTA would soon begin expanding internet services to EBC and ABC trekking routes for the safety of trekkers and promotion of Nepal’s tourism.
The base camp is located at the height of 5,360 metres (17,600 feet), making this the highest location at which free WiFi services will be available. Some hotels and restaurants at the base camp currently offer users WiFi at a rate of up to $5 (Rs 537) per hour.
"Availability of internet facility in these trekking routes will facilitate trekkers in receiving regular weather forecasts of different places, which will help reduce possible accidents that occur due to bad weather,” he said, adding that NTA will expedite the process of expanding internet facility along these two routes.
In October 2014, a snowstorm and series of avalanches had hit ABC, killing dozens of Nepali and foreign trekkers. The NTA believes that availability of internet in such trekking routes will deliver accurate weather forecasts and reduce risks of such accidents.
“Availability of internet in ABC and EBC will not only ensure trekkers’ safety, but also promote ABC and EBC as one of the best tourism and trekking destinations in the world,” added Jha. "NTA would bear the operation and maintenance cost of internet services in the routes."
Meanwhile, director of NTA Purshottam Khanal informed that a Japanese group has shown interest to lay optical fibre along the trekking routes in coordination with NTA. The NTA has, however, not yet taken any decision regarding the same," he said, adding that many countries have expressed concerns over the unfortunate incident of 2014 in ABC and they are willing to work closely with NTA to take internet facility to ABC and EBC trekking routes. The NTA is yet to develop concrete working modality for the planned expansion of internet service."
Even if implementing the plans with a partner does not materialise, NTA will lay optical fibre on its own along ABC and EBC trekking routes by utilising Rural Telecommunication Development Fund (RTDF) as internet services in these routes is crucial,” Khanal added.
On the occasion, general secretary of Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) Karna Bahadur Lama said that availability of internet and good telecommunication network along ABC and EBC would be a boon for trekkers in these two routes and also benefit the country’s tourism. "With the internet service in ABC and EBC, information-sharing regarding weather and other factors will be timely and effective," he said, adding that it will minimise accident risks.
Nepal Telecom has informed that the service will operate on the Okamura Model. The model suggests use of low-cost optical cable for high-speed internet and was propagated by International Telecommunications Union former Optical Transport Vice-Chairman Haruko Okamura.
Speaking at the program, secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communications Mahendra Man Gurung lauded the role of private sector in the development of ICT sector.
“There is a serious need to improve ICT infrastructures to reap more benefits from ICT,” he said, adding that the country will be developed only after ICT infrastructures are built in rural areas.

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