Nokia, Vodafone and other partners look to deploy 4G to support data transmissions from lunar rovers

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. Now come over here, Buzz. I want to get a selfie of this up on Insta; my ex-girlfriend’ll freak.” That’s not something astronaut Neil Armstrong ever said, but, if Nokia, Vodafone and partners work to realize the goal of establishing a 4G network on the moon, perhaps future generations of astronauts will be able to live tweet their lunar experiences.

The plan here is set up a 4G network on the moon that will use Nokia equipment to connect Audi lunar rovers with the network needed to transmit scientific data and HD video. The partners are eyeing the 1800 MHz band to transmit from the moon to a deep space link connected terrestrially to servers in Berlin run by PTScientists. In addition to the scientific functions, the plan to broadcast a live stream of the moon to viewers on earth. In terms of timeframe, the goal is to launch the equipment on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket next year.

Nokia Bell Labs is creating what it calls a “space-grade ultra compact network” weighing about 1 kilogram. Company CTO and Bell Labs President Marcus Wheldon said the project has “potentially wide-ranging implications for many stakeholders and humanity as a whole, and we look forward to working closely with Vodafone and other partners in the coming months.”

PTScientists CEO Robert Böhme called the project “a crucial first step for sustainable exploration of the solar system. In order for humanity to leave the cradle of earth, we need to develop infrastructures beyond our home planet.”

Audi’s lunar rovers will be used to collect data on NASA’s Apollo 17 lunar vehicle last used to support exploration in the Taurus-Littrow valley in December 1972.

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Editor’s note: I love everything about space exploration. This is an admirable goal and I hope it’s a resounding success. That said, I used a Vodafone SIM last week in Barcelona during Mobile World Congress. It’d be awesome if I had had an LTE connection inside many buildings and in the dense urban areas of the city. I applaud this moonshot, but would be remiss if I didn’t point out there are terrestrial concerns that could use some attention. 

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