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NASA is launching a 4G cellular community on the moon

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Night time photograph of a waxing gibbous Moon, taken on November 14, 2013.

Chris Rutter | Digital Camera Magazine | Getty Images

LONDON — Just as 5G arrives on planet Earth, its predecessor is heading to the moon.

NASA has selected Nokia to build the first-ever 4G mobile network on Earth’s natural satellite, the Finnish telecommunications firm announced Monday.

The company’s U.S. industrial research arm, Bell Labs, is offering up its equipment to NASA to help build out the lunar network, with the aim of launching it in late 2022.

Under its Artemis program, NASA plans to send astronauts to the moon by 2024 — for the first time in five decades — followed by a “sustainable” human presence by 2028.

The U.S. space agency has chosen Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Dynetics, a lesser-known company, to develop the human landers that will land astronauts on the moon.

Nokia says its 4G network will allow astronauts to carry out a number of activities including making voice and video calls, sending important data and deploying payloads. It plans to eventually launch 5G on the moon as well.

Bell Labs was granted $14.1 million for the project, according to a CNN report. Nokia wasn’t immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

The deal is a win for Nokia, which has been competing with China’s Huawei and Sweden’s Ericsson for lucrative 5G contracts. It also comes as major carriers try to convince people to switch to 5G, which promises much faster download speeds and lower latency. Apple recently revealed the iPhone 12, its first phone range to support 5G.

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Katherine Clark