A doctor in China has become the first to perform remote control surgery over a super-fast 5G network.
The surgeon, who manipulated two robotic arms, was 30 miles from an operating theatre in Fujian province.
During the procedure, he removed a laboratory animal’s liver, the South China Morning Post reported.
The 5G system, which is said to be at least 10 times as fast as current networks, and perhaps even up to a hundred times, has a lag time of only 0.1 seconds.
That meant the delay between the surgeon’s movements, and the robot in the theatre, was short enough to avoid potentially dangerous mistakes.
In future, it is hoped such technology will enable surgeons to work remotely in war zones and disaster areas.
It will also allow specialists from large hospitals to assist more junior colleagues elsewhere.
The fifth generation system is a “trend-setting technology which will play an important role in surgery”, Dr Michael Kranzfelder from Rechts der Isar Hospital in Munich said at last year’s German Society of Surgery.
He also said it would “open up many new areas of application for which the previous mobile data transmission standard was simply not fast enough”.
Mobile phone companies are expected to begin work on 5G infrastructure in the UK later this year or in 2020.
But widespread coverage may not be available until 2022 or later.
The greater speed and capacity of 5G will bring much faster download speeds, and new applications using virtual and augmented reality.
It will also be vital to self-driving cars, which will need a constant, guaranteed connection.
But there may be a downside too: there are concerns that Chinese companies building 5G networks could pose a security risk.