A view of 5G base stations built by China Mobile at Mount Qomolangma. Photo: Courtesy of China Mobile
A view of 5G base stations built by China Mobile at Mount Qomolangma. Photo: Courtesy of China Mobile

By Li Xuanmin

The peak of Mount Qomolangma (Mount Everest), the world’s highest point at 8,848 meters above sea level, is expected to be covered by 5G signals on Saturday, according to Chinese telecom operators, marking a significant step in China’s 5G capability.

China Mobile, the world’s largest telecom operator by the number of subscribers, and Huawei jointly opened three 5G stations at Mount Qomolangma’s base and transition camps on April 19, at altitudes of 5,300 meters and 5,800 meters, respectively, a spokesperson of China Mobile told the Global Times. The download speed of the 5G network is 1 gigabyte per second.

Another two 5G stations are expected to be completed on Saturday at the 6,500-meter-high advance camp, which will cover the summit of Qomolangma. These stations, based on non-standalone and standalone networks, will be the world’s highest installed 5G base stations.

The 5G Active Antenna Unit stations are supplied by Huawei and are highly concentrated, small and lightweight, which significantly reduces the difficulty of installing them on Mount Qomolangma, according to the spokesperson.

She added that the construction of the stations on the world’s tallest mountain has posed challenges to Chinese engineers.

“As the base camps of Mount Qomolangma are among national natural reserves, it is difficult to bring materials to that elevation,” the spokesperson said, noting that in order to protect the natural environment, no excavation is allowed in the mountain’s core area. Construction workers are laying hardened cable in a way that brings minimal harm to the surrounding environment.

China Mobile has not disclosed the cost of building the 5G base stations, but industry insiders estimate that installing one 5G base station on Mount Qomolangma could cost 1 million yuan ($140,000), compared with an average of around 30,000-40,000 yuan in major Chinese cities.

“We call it ‘mission impossible’ because the challenges are formidable. How can we ensure a stable 5G network? How can we guarantee electricity supply for 5G stations in extreme weather conditions? How can we ensure cables don’t snap at -20 C?” Xiang Ligang, a veteran telecoms industry analyst in Beijing, told the Global Times.

By overcoming these difficulties and building the world’s highest 5G base stations, China has shown the world its leading 5G technology and capacity, analysts said. “This marks a milestone in China’s 5G rollout,” Xiang stressed.

In addition to China Mobile, China Telecom has announced that it built 5G base stations at the Qomolangma base camp, at an altitude of 5,145.3 meters on April 13. The tested upload and download speeds were 700 Mbps (megabytes per second) and 223Mbps, respectively. China Unicom has also announced in recent days that it has built two 5G base stations on Mount Qomolangma, which will provide full 5G coverage for the mountain’s observation deck and No.1 base camp.

Industry observers said that building the 5G stations on Mount Qomolangma will help scientific investigation, meteorological monitoring, and mountaineering communication and rescue.
“Sooner or later, we may be able to see 5G-powered live broadcasts of travelers conquering the peak,” Xiang said.

Source: Global Times

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