Accelerating the utilization of emerging technologies, including 5G technology, has enabled China to go beyond traditional telemedicine capabilities. China has begun utilizing telemedicine not only to tackle the impacts of COVID-19, but also to expand the level of diagnoses made and the number of conditions, and thus, people treated.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, 5G’s application in remote medical services was largely theoretical in China. With government support, local hospitals in Wuhan, such as Huoshenshan and Leishenshan Hospitals, cooperated with two leading technology companies, Huawei, ZTE and Big 3 telecoms (China Telecom, China Mobile, and China Unicom). The purpose of this collaboration was to deploy industrial Internet of Things (IoT) applications and 5G robots.14 Remote CT scan, remote nursing, real-time multidisciplinary consultation, and surgery have been realized thanks to these technologies.
On March 2nd, the 5G mobile CT module was first put to use in Huangzhou General Hospital in Huanggang City, Hubei Province. On the same day, West China Hospital of Sichuan University carried out a remote CT examination for 106 patients in Huangzhou General Hospital through the 5G+ Remote CT system.15 This was the first time that COVID-19 was diagnosed by a 5G+ remote CT system across the province. 5G Robots have also shouldered the responsibilities of disinfecting hospitals and delivering medical supplies.17
This pandemic has reinforced the position of 5G by providing a need to accelerate 5G application rapidly. Thus, 5G networks and data centers have been put at the top of China’s spending plans as they develop a ‘new infrastructure’ for a post-COVID-19 life. Currently, China Mobile provides 5G coverage in 50 cities and plans to build at least 250,000 5G base stations in 2020. China Unicom and China Telecom have also cooperated to build 50,000 5G base stations across the country. China is expected to maintain a leading role in 5G application.18