Huawei, China’s telcos bring 5G to Mount Everest

Jane Zhang, South China Morning Post

Posted at Apr 22 2020 08:55 AM

A 5G sign is pictured at Huawei's booth at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Shanghai, China June 28, 2019. Aly Song, Reuters

Huawei Technologies has teamed up with wireless network operators China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom to roll out advanced 5G infrastructure on Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain above sea level.

The deployment of 5G base stations on the famous Himalayan mountain, with an elevation of 8,848 metres, has extended the reach of the next-generation mobile technology, which has been held up as "the connective tissue" for the Internet of Things, autonomous cars, smart cities and other new applications " providing the backbone for the industrial internet. The new 5G infrastructure roll-outs were announced by Huawei in a post on Chinese microblogging site Weibo on Monday and confirmed by its spokeswoman on Tuesday.

China Mobile, the world's largest wireless network operator, said its 5G project on Mount Everest marked "not only another extreme challenge in a human life exclusion zone, but also laid a solid foundation for the later development of 5G smart tourism and 5G communications for scientific research", according to the company's post on Weibo on Monday.

The Hong Kong and New York-listed carrier set up 3 5G base stations " radio access gear that connects mobile devices to the broader telecommunications network " on April 19 in two camps at altitudes of 5,300 meters and 5,800 meters, which provide online download speed of about 1 gigabit per second.

China Mobile plans to install two more 5G base stations, supplied by telecommunications gear maker Huawei Technologies, on Mount Everest before April 25.

Installation of two more base stations are expected to be completed by China Mobile before April 25 in another camp at an altitude of 6,500 metres, providing 5G network coverage to the summit of Mount Everest. The international border between China and Nepal is 1,414 kilometers in length and runs across that summit.

More than 150 China Mobile employees are taking part on the construction and maintenance of the new 5G base stations as well as upgrading existing infrastructure on the surrounding areas, according to the company. It said 25 kilometers of new optical cables have also been laid out to support this project.

China Telecom confirmed its Mount Everest project on Tuesday in a statement, which said its 5G base stations were installed on April 13 at an altitude of 5,145 metres. It partnered with state-run China Central Television to broadcast a 24-hour live-streamed program on April 14 from Mount Everest, which had an audience of more than 6 million people.

China Mobile did not immediately respond to a request for comment. China Unicom did not immediately reply to a separate request for comment.

Delivering 5G network connectivity to Mount Everest bolsters the 3 telecoms carriers commitment to push ahead with the nationwide roll-out of 5G mobile services amid the coronavirus crisis. Their effort comes after concerns were raised that the outbreak had prompted delays in the installation of 5G base stations across the country.

Mobile network operators in China launched initial commercial 5G services last year. The country has already deployed more than 160,000 5G base stations, covering more than 50 cities, according to a report published last month by the GSMA, the trade body which represents mobile operators worldwide.

While initial commercial 5G mobile services were launched in countries like South Korea, the US, and Australia, the scale of China's market is likely to dwarf the combined size of those economies, negating any first-mover advantage.

The steady annual deployment of new 5G base stations is critical to meet future demand in the world's second largest economy and biggest smartphone market. China is expected to have 600 million 5G mobile users by 2025, which would make up 40 per cent of total global 5G subscribers, according to the GSMA.


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