While engineers on Earth are busy developing next-generation 5G networks, others are looking at new places to implement existing 4G technologies. Through a partnership between Vodafone, Nokia, and Audi, the Moon is scheduled to get its very own mobile phone networksometime next year.
Vodafone will be designing the lunar network and will make use of equipment designed by Nokia Bell Labs. This connectivity will allow two Audi Lunar Quattro rovers to communicate wirelessly with a base station at the Autonomous Landing and Navigation Module. Using existing satellites, mission organizer Part Time Scientists will also be able to live stream scientific data and HD video content from the Moon to viewers on Earth.
The networking equipment will be launched into space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and has been designed to be incredibly small. Nokia believes their network equipment will weigh less than one kilogram.
Although development of 5G networks is making progress, they won’t be ready in time for the 2019 launch and won’t be robust enough for the harsh environment of space. While much faster than 4G networks, their range is considerably shorter and that’s not good in space. This is because 5G networks use a much higher frequency than 4G networks and this results in higher pathloss. Considering there isn’t much competition for spectrum on the Moon, they could probably use whatever frequency they wanted though.
Traditional analog communications like the ones used for the Apollo missions are much larger and require far more energy that modern digital communications. This makes 4G the perfect technology for this scenario.