It seems the sky really is the limit for Chinese 5G
Mount Everest, known as Mount Qomolangma in China, has fascinated man for centuries. As the world’s highest point, reaching the summit presents an incredibly difficult and dangerous task to even the most experienced of mountaineers.
However, it seems even the threat of an icy demise cannot stop China Mobile and Huawei from flexing their 5G muscles, as the duo prepare to provide the mountain with its own 5G base stations.
Back on April the 19th, three 5G stations were set up at the mountain’s base and transition camps (at 5,300 and 5,8000 metres, respectively), and this Saturday will hopefully see two more set up at the 6,500-metre-high advance camp. From here, the 5G signal will reach all the way to the summit of 8,848 metre high mountain.
As if climbing the mountain itself was not hard enough, the deployment of these stations presents a huge number of technical difficulties.
Speaking to the Global Times, industry analyst Xiang Ligang called the task of deploying 5G on the mountain “mission impossible”.
“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?" he asked.
Huawei’s small and lightweight 5G Active Antenna Unit’s have provided some relief when it comes to getting the equipment up the mountain, but the key engineering challenges still remain. How exactly the operator and its vendor partner have overcome these challenges remains unclear, but one thing is certain: it will not come cheap.
Experts are estimating the price of placing just a single 5G mast on Everest at around $140,000.
So if it is expensive and difficult, why bother?
The 5G network will certainly assist mountaineers and researchers, especially in the event of rescue operations, but this alone does not seem to justify the expense of the operation.
Instead, this incredible feat of engineering is, at least in part, inspired by the ongoing China–US trade war, with China keen to show its 5G dominance on the highest stage in the world. The Chinese government has recently made the widespread rollout of 5G and ongoing innovation in this field a priority for the nation’s telcos, making the next generation technology a source of national pride and geopolitical might.
Or perhaps the motivation for "mission imposible" is even simpler still. Perhaps the reason is little more than the answer given by George Mallory when asked why he wanted to climb Everest back in 1924.
“Because it is there.”