Wi-Fi Comes to Mount Kilimanjaro

Access to high-speed internet should make Africa’s tallest mountain safer for adventurers and guides

Mount Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro is the largest free-standing mountain in the world. Pexels

Every year, tens of thousands of travelers try to reach the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. Now, thanks to new high-speed internet service, they’ll also be able to post photos, check email and surf the web while hiking the towering 19,341-foot-tall mountain in Tanzania.

For the foreseeable future, adventurers will have reliable Wi-Fi up to 12,205 feet while ascending the peak. The government hopes to offer internet connectivity all the way to the summit by the end of this year.

Nape Moses Nnauye, Tanzania’s information and communication minister, announced the news at a press conference last week, report Leila Sackur and Mary-Ann Russon for NBC News. The state-owned Tanzania Telecommunications Corp. installed the fiber-optic broadband network as part of the government’s broader push to improve internet connectivity via its National ICT Broadband Backbone initiative.

The high-speed internet access should make climbing the mountain safer, as travelers can now more easily get help and access navigation tools. Kilimanjaro is not the first famous climbing destination to make such upgrades: Mount Everest installed a 5G internet network in 2020.

“Previously, it was a bit dangerous for visitors and porters who had to operate without internet,” Nnauye told journalists last week, as reported by the Agence France-Presse (AFP). 

Mount Kilimanjaro is a major source of revenue for Tanzania, where tourism made up an estimated 17 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2019, per NBC News.

In 2019, the Tanzanian government drew ire from mountaineers, guides and environmentalists when it revealed that it had been considering the idea of building a cable car on Kilimanjaro to make the mountain more accessible to tourists who cannot climb to the top. The government approved a cable car in early 2021, but so far, crews have not begun construction on the controversial $72 million conveyance.

Aerial view of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania
Aerial view of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania Takashi Muramatsu via Flickr under CC BY-ND 2.0

Around 50,000 people visit Kilimanjaro National Park in northeast Tanzania near the Kenyan border each year, and roughly 35,000 attempt to summit the park’s namesake mountain. The national park, including the mountain peak, has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1987.

Mountaineers have long revered the colossal mountain, which actually encompasses three dormant stratovolcanoes: Mawenzi, Shira and Kibo. Hans Meyer, a German geographer, and Ludwig Purtscheller, an Austrian mountaineer, became the first recorded Europeans to reach Kilimanjaro’s summit in 1889, per Encyclopedia Britannica.

Kilimanjaro is unique because it’s not part of a mountain range; it rises from the plains of Tanzania and Kenya as the largest free-standing mountain in the world. It has snowy glaciers surrounding its summit, but scientists predict those will melt within the next decade or so because of climate change.