Vodafone Germany is working with Berlin-based PTScientists - the winner of the Google Lunar X-Prize competition in 2009 - and Audi to achieve the first privately-funded moon landing in 2019.
The companies have selected Nokia Bell Labs to create a space-grade ultra-compact network that will be the lightest yet developed, weighing just 1kg - less than a bag of sugar.
The 4G network will enable the mission's Audi-designed rovers to communicate and transfer scientific data and HD video as they approach and study NASA's Apollo 17 lunar roving vehicle, used by the last astronauts to walk on the moon in 1972.
Vodafone said its tests suggest that the base station will broadcast 4G using 1800-MHz spectrum, sending back the first live HD video feed of the lunar surface.
“This project involves a radically innovative approach to the development of mobile network infrastructure. It is also a great example of an independent, multi-skilled team achieving an objective of immense significance through their courage, pioneering spirit and inventiveness,” Vodafone Germany CEO Dr Hannes Ametsreiter said.
“This important mission is supporting, among other things, the development of new space-grade technologies for future data networking, processing and storage, and will help advance the communications infrastructure required for academics, industry and educational institutions in conducting lunar research,” added Nokia CTO and Bell Labs president Marcus Weldon.
“These aims have potentially wide-ranging implications for many stakeholders and humanity as a whole, and we look forward to working closely with Vodafone and the other partners in the coming months, prior to the launch in 2019."
The Mission to the Moon is due to launch in 2019 from Cape Canaveral on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
“This is a crucial first step for sustainable exploration of the solar system. In order for humanity to leave the cradle of Earth, we need to develop infrastructures beyond our home planet,” PTScientists CEO and founder Robert Böhme said.
“With Mission to the Moon we will establish and test the first elements of a dedicated communications network on the Moon. The great thing about this LTE solution is that it saves so much power, and the less energy we use sending data, the more we have to do science!”
Vodafone is displaying the 4G base station and a lunar rover like the ones PTScientists will send to the moon at its stand at MWC 2018.