China's largest cell phone service provider successfully tested a transmission station on Mount Everest on Tuesday, making it possible for people in the area for next year's Olympic torch relay to make calls, a state news agency reported.
China Mobile had to hire yaks and porters to transport equipment up to the station at an altitude of 21,325 feet, the Xinhua News Agency said.
Aside from the physical challenge of climbing the mountain, which straddles the border of Nepal and Chinese-controlled Tibet, the torch had to be designed to burn in bad weather, low pressure and high altitude.
The new station and two other high-altitude China Mobile stations, one at 17,060 feet and the other at 19,095 feet, are to provide cell phone service along the entire Mount Everest climbing route, Xinhua said. It was not known whether the two other stations operate on a continuous basis.
Immediately after testing it, workers began packing away the station for the winter, Xinhua said. It will be reassembled for the Olympic torch relay next summer, when the flame is to be carried to Everest's 29,035-foot summit.
A worker at the station called China Mobile general manager Wang Jianzhou 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 percent of what it is at sea level, 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.
Phones rang unanswered at China Mobile's headquarters in Beijing on Tuesday evening. The Lhasa office of China Mobile did not have a listed telephone number.
Organizers of the Beijing Games plan to stage the longest torch relay in Olympic history on an 85,000-mile, 130-day route across five continents.
While Beijing hopes the feat will impress the world, groups critical of China's often harsh 57-year rule over Tibet have decried the torch route as a stunt meant to lend legitimacy to Chinese control.