Nokia looks to have nailed down a very interesting collaboration that is literally out of this world! It is a fact that mobile phone reception is virtually non-existent even in some parts of Europe, but the Finnish company will be setting up an LTE network on the moon together with NASA. The network will not only help with future research but is also touted to be fast enough to stream HD videos to boot.
While most parts of the world have already been adequately equipped with the necessary telecommunications equipment to stream high-quality video over mobile networks, while making the slow yet sure move heading towards 5G, a similar possibility in the vastness of outer space does seem far-fetched. Although billions are being invested in the development of space technologies, most information that is sent from distant space probes happens to be received via radio waves as of today. There is a very good reason for that: unlike sound, these could also move in a vacuum, according to Erich Lutz, Professor at the Institute of Communication and Navigation of the German Aerospace Center. At the same time, long-wave radio waves can travel long distances, but at the expense of speed which shows the stark difference when compared to the various communication technologies here on earth, the professor informed Helmholtz.
To the moon! 🌕— Bell Labs (@BellLabs) October 15, 2020
We are excited to have been named by @NASA as a key partner to advance “Tipping Point” technologies for the moon, to help pave the way towards sustainable human presence on the lunar surface.
So, what technology can you expect to see? (1/6) pic.twitter.com/wDNwloyHdP
This scenario could soon change on the earth's satellite: the moon. It has been reported that Nokia will be working with NASA on an LTE mobile phone network. As Nokia's development division Bell Labs wrote on Twitter, the network is supposed to pave the way for the future colonization of the moon by mankind - not too far-fetched an idea considering the rate that we are destroying the earth. The network will transport data from the moon to the earth, control moon vehicles, navigate the lunar landscape in real-time, and even stream videos in HD resolution.
Ensuring communication on the moon
For those who want are wondering whether the implementation of a lunar LTE network will result in bill shock the next time you take to the skies on a commercial flight, fret not. Your smartphone will not switch to the roaming network on the moon while you are in the air by accident. This is because as NASA explained in an article about the Moon project, the LTE network is more likely to provide communication on the moon itself. In other words, communication from a base station to an astronaut or a lunar vehicle.
Relying on reliable and existing technologies for this to work, one cannot skirt around the issue of cost. After all, NASA is tendering the financing for the program, for which the US division of Nokia was able to qualify, at only $14.1 million. The bulk of the $370 million in research funding will be spearheaded by companies such as Lockheed and SpaceX, where they work on rockets and their propulsion systems. Since LTE modems are also very inexpensive and compact, retrofitting and upgrading any lunar equipment could be a relatively easy task.
Special requirements for the equipment
Bell Labs also wrote something about the transmitter in its Twitter feed. In other words, the transmitter must not only be compact in size, but it must also be robust and durable. In addition, the components must be able to withstand the rigors of the environment on the moon, especially against moon dust and the higher radiation levels found on the Earth's satellite.
Peering further into the future, Nokia does have plans to build a 5G network on the moon as well. This future technology will be characterized by particularly low latencies and could offer numerous advantages, especially when it comes to controlling moon vehicles or other gripping devices. An exact date for the launch of the first LTE network on the moon remains unknown. Jim Bridenstine of NASA, however, did make a passing mention that according to UPI, astronauts should be working on a moon base by 2028 at the latest.