If you ever vacation on Moon, thanks to Nokia, you will be able to use your smartphones. The telco has secured a $14.1 Million funding contract from NASA to build a 4G cellphone network on the moon. The announcement comes as part of a $370 Million slew of contracts that it issued yesterday, as NASA pushes toward a return to the Moon in 2024. Further, the first crew of the Artemis mission will include at least one woman.
The contract went to Nokia’s US Research Arm, Bell Labs. But, the whole company's experience will work onto the task. “The system could support lunar surface communications at greater distances, increased speeds, and provide more reliability than current standards,” said NASA in awarding the contract.
Astronauts and vehicles will use the 4G network as a foothold for any future permanent Moonbase. “With NASA funding, Nokia will look at how terrestrial technology could be modified for the lunar environment to support reliable, high-rate communications,” adds Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.
Further, NASA's 4G network partnership comes as a part of the "Tipping Point" project. Nokia's research wing said that they will use innovations "to build and deploy the first wireless network on the moon; starting with 4G/LTE technologies and evolving to 5G".
Why Not 5G?
During the original 1969-1972 Apollo missions, engineers were fully reliant on radio communication through a network of transmitters, base stations, and relays, back on earth, using NASA’s ‘S-Band’ of 2-4Ghz. A digital, cellular service will be a vast improvement in terms of quality and efficiency of surface-to-surface communications, once we return to the Moon to stay, says Chris Merriman of XDA.
It gives rise to the question of why NASA or Bell Labs is not considering 5G. Perhaps, 5G signals can only reach shorter distances, meaning that we may need more base stations. 4G will do an ample job in those early days, with far less infrastructure. Maybe the moon will get a 5G (or even 6G) upgrade once we’re settled on the surface. Just don’t expect Huawei to win that tender.