Your iPhone will soon work on the moon

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A 4G moon cellular network. It’s really happening.
4G LTE on the Moon isn’t sci-fi. An iPhone could soon be able to make calls from the Lunar surface.
Photo: Alex Powell/Pexels cc

Nokia will build a 4G cellular network on the moon. It’ll allow future astronauts to make voice and video calls, but also transmit data and remotely control equipment.

The goal is to have the wireless network in place on Earth’s largest satellite by 2022. It’s part of NASA’s Artemis program, which has the goal of establishing a sustainable presence on the moon by the end of the decade.

Moon cell service sticks with reliable 4G LTE

Rather than going with something exotic, NASA picked Nokia to build a wireless communication system based on LTE. This is the same standard used by today’s iPhones and other handsets. Nokia points out that LTE has proven to be reliable over years of use on Earth, and it’s scalable and easily deployable.

“The system could support lunar surface communications at greater distances, increased speeds, and provide more reliability than current standards,” NASA wrote when approving the plan.

Cell towers on the moon will be integrated into the lunar lander built by Intuitive Machines. “The solution has been specially designed to withstand the harsh conditions of the launch and lunar landing, and to operate in the extreme conditions of space,” Nokia said in a statement. “The fully integrated cellular network meets very stringent size, weight and power constraints of space payloads in an extremely compact form factor.”

The moon’s 4G LTE system will be built by U.S.-based Bell Labs. “By building the first high performance wireless network solution on the moon, Nokia Bell Labs is once again planting the flag for pioneering innovation beyond the conventional limits,” said Marcus Weldon, chief technology officer at Nokia and president of Bell Labs.

NASA could have skipped 4G and gone straight to the latest standard, but telecoms are only just now rolling out 5G on Earth.