Doctor Antonio Lacy of Hospital Clinic de Barcelona delivers a speech about the first 5G tele-mentored live surgery at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona on February 27, 2019. - Phone makers will focus on foldable screens and the introduction of blazing fast 5G wireless networks at the world's biggest mobile fair as they try to reverse a decline in sales of smartphones. (Photo by Pau Barrena / AFP)        (Photo credit should read PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Pau Barrena/AFP/Getty Images
Doctor Antonio Lacy of Hospital Clinic de Barcelona delivers a speech about the first 5G tele-mentored live surgery at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona on February 27, 2019. - Phone makers will focus on foldable screens and the introduction of blazing fast 5G wireless networks at the world's biggest mobile fair as they try to reverse a decline in sales of smartphones. (Photo by Pau Barrena / AFP) (Photo credit should read PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:38
Watch: Doctor uses 5G to direct surgery live
CUPERTINO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 13, 2020: Apple CEO Tim Cook talking about the value of 5G for customers during a special event at Apple Park in Cupertino, California. (Photo by Brooks Kraft/Apple Inc.)
PHOTO: Brooks Kraft/Apple Inc
CUPERTINO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 13, 2020: Apple CEO Tim Cook talking about the value of 5G for customers during a special event at Apple Park in Cupertino, California. (Photo by Brooks Kraft/Apple Inc.)
Now playing
01:02
5G is coming to the iPhone
PHOTO: Moss Cohen
Now playing
03:03
5G is the future. But it's not really here yet
PHOTO: Harvard
Now playing
03:20
How 5G will change the farming industry
BMW Vision iNEXT
PHOTO: Enes Kucevic
BMW Vision iNEXT
Now playing
02:50
5G is the key to your driverless car
A customer looks at a smartphone at a Huawei retail store in Beijing on May 23, 2019. - Chinese telecom giant Huawei says it could roll out its own operating system for smartphones and laptops in China by the autumn after the United States blacklisted the company, a report said on May 23. (Photo by FRED DUFOUR / AFP)        (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images
A customer looks at a smartphone at a Huawei retail store in Beijing on May 23, 2019. - Chinese telecom giant Huawei says it could roll out its own operating system for smartphones and laptops in China by the autumn after the United States blacklisted the company, a report said on May 23. (Photo by FRED DUFOUR / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:27
How 5G technology could be a potential security risk
Now playing
01:32
Huawei and 5G: What's at stake
Now playing
01:38
Here's why 5G is the future
Now playing
01:49
South Korea rolls out 5G network
Huawei chairperson Guo Ping delivers a keynote speech at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona on February 26, 2019. - Phone makers will focus on foldable screens and the introduction of blazing fast 5G wireless networks at the world's biggest mobile fair as they try to reverse a decline in sales of smartphones. (Photo by Pau Barrena / AFP)        (Photo credit should read PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: PAU BARRENA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Huawei chairperson Guo Ping delivers a keynote speech at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona on February 26, 2019. - Phone makers will focus on foldable screens and the introduction of blazing fast 5G wireless networks at the world's biggest mobile fair as they try to reverse a decline in sales of smartphones. (Photo by Pau Barrena / AFP) (Photo credit should read PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:51
Huawei CEO: 'Huawei has not and will never plant backdoors'
(CNN Business) —  

When a team of doctors at Hospital Clinic Barcelona began removing a cancerous tumor from a patient’s colon on Wednesday, the surgeon overseeing the procedure was over three miles away.

In front of a packed auditorium at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona’s Fira Gran Via, the chief of the hospital’s gastrointestinal surgery unit used 5G technology to direct the operation via a live video link.

“If you cut these nerves, the patient will probably have urinary problems, sexual problems, many things,” Dr. Antonio Maria de Lacy told a rapt audience at the mobile tech industry event.

De Lacy then used a telestrator to highlight an area of the patient’s body with nerve-rich tissue. “You need to maintain this area,” he told his team, who could see the marking as they operated.

The hospital said it was the first time that doctors had used a 5G connection to communicate during surgery. De Lacy wasn’t performing the surgery himself, but he was able to provide instant advice and guidance.

De Lacy said that providing help in real time was only possible with a super-fast 5G connection.

“I am drawing with my hand on this screen, and at the same time on their screen,” he said. “Before 5G, we had to freeze the image to draw, but the surgeon is moving on and that is not ideal.”

Dr. Lacy speaks on stage at Mobile World Congress.
PHOTO: Pau Barrena/AFP/Getty Images
Dr. Lacy speaks on stage at Mobile World Congress.

5G can be 100 times faster than 4G, and the mobile networks have the potential to power self-driving cars, virtual reality, smart cities and networked robots. Health care is another area with major potential.

The speed and reliability of 5G means there is virtually zero latency, or lag time, between devices and the servers they communicate with, making it possible for De Lacy to draw on the screen in real time.

Around 143 million surgeries around the world do not happen each year because there aren’t enough expert surgeons. De Lacy said 5G technology could help bring that number down.

General surgery resident Romina Pena, who helped perform the surgery at the hospital, said she appreciated having De Lacy available throughout the procedure.

“Regardless of the level of experience of any surgeon, guidance is always welcome,” she said.

The audience inside the room was clearly stunned by the drama playing on the screen in high definition. 5G was a major theme at Mobile World Congress, but the surgery provided a powerful real-world example of its benefits.

“I was nervous and a bit worried,” said Gang Zhao of USA China Network Corp., who had never seen an operation before and wasn’t sure about looking inside a human body.

“It’s good that it was a [keyhole] surgery,” he said. “No blood.”