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A wireless network out of this world

If you think that 4G is ubiquitous, think again. You don’t get 4G coverage on the Moon, but NASA and Nokia are working to fix that. Image credit: Westend61/Getty Images

NASA is working to establish a permanent presence on the Moon and it is looking at the variety of issues that would raise. One of this is to have a telecommunication network so that moonlings can communicate, as earthlings do.

Hence the funding of 14.1 million $ to BellLabs, owned by Nokia, to develop a 4G wireless network that could be deployed on the Moon.

If you think that’s easy think twice. Current 4G networks require plenty of equipment that are bulky and heavy, a combination that does not fit well with space travel. The researchers are challenged to develop something that can be carried to the Moon and that can be deployed almost automatically (very few workers are available to dig trenches, plant poles and tweak antennas to get the right coverage…) and survive the extreme temperatures of the Moon surface (it range between -130° and +120° C, that’s -208 and +250 F).

The network will be used to provide navigation help to rovers and astronauts, stream videos (not designed for Netflix, at least not for now) and remotely control equipment. It will have to be in place before the arrival of the future Moon’s citizens.

The idea is to provide coverage using smaller cells, thus providing better localisation function and requiring less power for transmission.

The funding is part of a larger initiative by NASA called “Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative Technology”.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.