Tens of thousands of tourists (estimates range from about 30-50 thousand) attempt to summit Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro each year. And you can best believe lots of those climbers are posting about it.
Now, Tanzania has brought high-speed internet to the mountain—making live-tweeting (or ‘gramming, TikTok-ing, etc...) an ascent easier than ever before. Plus, the added connectivity will boost safety for Kilimanjaro’s many visitors and guides, according to Nape Nnauye, a Tanzanian official who spoke at the service’s launch, as reported by The Guardian.
Nnauye also tweeted about the announcement, writing “tourists can now communicate worldwide from the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.”
Tanzania Telecommunications Corporation, the country’s state-owned provider, reportedly finished setting up the network on Tuesday. Internet connectivity currently reaches 12,450 feet (3,795 meters) above sea level, according to a report from the Washington Post. And there are plans to extend it to the very tippy top: Uhuru Peak at 12,291 feet (5,880 meters), as Nnauye indicated in both his speech and tweet.
It’s easy to dunk on the idea of bringing internet to remote, alpine locations. There’s a romantic, emotional argument to be made that something intangible is lost when wi-fi reaches previously off-the-grid spots. But Kilimanjaro is far from a totally untouched, cut-off wilderness: It’s a massive tourist attraction that draws in lots of relatively inexperienced climbers, and people die on the mountain every year.
(Full disclosure: a close relative of this Gizmodo writer attempted to summit Kilimanjaro with minimal preparation as part of a tour group, and ended up being evacuated with a case of high-altitude pulmonary edema. They survived, but yikes.)
Meanwhile, Mount Everest, which attracts just about 1/10th as many first-time climbers, got wi-fi years ago. And a 2020 study found that climbing the world’s tallest mountain has gotten safer, even amid bigger crowds (granted, the study doesn’t specially mention the internet infrastructure).
Safety aside, the move to bring internet to Kilimanjaro is almost certainly one meant to help give a post-pandemic boost to Tanzanian tourism, which contributed more than 10% of the country’s GDP in 2019. More than three years ago, government officials even announced controversial plans to put a cable car on the mountain, also in service of increasing tourism.