Why NASA hates 5G

In today’s Exponential Investor…

  • Chatting space over beers
  • China and Pink Floyd
  • Evidence space is here now

I had a conversation with Boaz Shoshan last week on our Booze, Booms & Busts podcast that we do on a weekly basis. It’s not an official Southbank Investment Research podcast – we do it on our own time, just for fun where we drink beer and talk about the market.

Think of it like Friday night drinks, which we record at home a few hundred miles away from each other.

Anyway, we were consuming our liquid gold talking about space. In particular about the future plans for NASA’s Project Artemis.

Project Artemis is the ambitious plan for NASA to once again land a human on the moon. I say ambitious, but it’s not really ambitious any more is it?

The technology, the expertise, the money is all there and ready to get people on to the moon once again.

The real factor that’s stopped this from happening earlier is motivation. After the last lunar walks governments didn’t really pay much attention to space. At least not in terms of physical human presence.

There was the International Space Station and that was about the only reason to go back into space again. However, that all started to change over the last few years as a renewed interest in claiming a stake in space has risen to the surface.

The “Sputnik moment”

I believe the really critical moment in all this was the progress of China’s space programme. When they landed on the dark side of the moon in January 2019, it made history.

No one else has ever landed on the dark side of the moon – not even Pink Floyd.

I believe this is the modern “Sputnik moment” when the West (namely the US) realise they’ve started to slip behind in this new space race.

The fact China has the technology, motivation and resources to successfully compete a mission like this says a lot about its plans for space, the moon, Mars and beyond.

In our discussion about this new space race we were talking about the future of a permanent presence on the moon, or in orbit of the moon.

NASA isn’t backwards in coming forward about future plans for another space station. Likely one that orbits the moon. But if not the US, then it’s also very likely another country will look to establish a lunar station on the surface of the moon.

After all, the International Space Station is set to “retire” in the next couple of years. That would leave no continuous space station in orbit of… anything.

Which, in our very high tech, modern world just isn’t acceptable.

These future lunar bases will be the springboard getting people to the moon and then from the moon to Mars.

Yep, it’s going to be just like the sci-fi movies you’ve seen from Hollywood over the years.

Okay, maybe not full Total Recall (maybe) but we’ll definitely have a permanent presence on the moon, Mars, in-between and around the Earth again.

How can I be so sure about it?

Well it’s simple…

A confirmation of what’s coming


Nokia is how I know there will definitely be a permanent human presence on the moon and on Mars in the very near future.

Nokia and NASA are working on a lunar mobile network.

That’s right, up on the moon there will be a fully functioning 4G mobile network. That will allow astronauts, lunar residents and those heading up for a day trip, to call home, each other and maybe even “Netflix and chill” over on the dark side of the moon…

I was interested by this development. Not surprised that a mobile network would be scheduled to be installed on the moon – but the fact it’s 4G and not 5G technology.

If you were going to install a future mobile network on the moon, surely you’d go to the latest iteration of networking technology?

Clearly not.

Well at least, not at first. This is all part of the aims of Project Artemis. Nokia and NASA have said that over time it will be upgraded to 5G. Over time? What does that mean?

The key here is to get “battle-hardened” tech working with reliability. So they go to the tech that’s been with us for about the last decade already, 4G. Then after that’s been proven reliable, the upgrades will come.

However, if people think getting a lunar network in space will take another five or ten years, think again.

If we’re talking about a decade that would mean the upgrade technology is more likely to be 6G, not 5G.

It’s about every ten years we move forward a generation of mobile communications. From 1G through to today’s 5G, it’s nine or ten years till the next step up.

We already know there’s been research and development into 6G and that give it another eight or nine years and we’ll be talking about 6G.

This leads me to question whether NASA and Nokia are really telling us this network will be up and running a lot sooner than people realise. If they’re planning on installing 4G networks to upgrade to 5G then I would expect that to be operational and functional inside of five years.

By the time 2025 rolls around not only will NASA aim to have completed its aim of getting someone on the moon, but it’ll be able to Zoom meeting the world while it does it on the lunar 4G network.

This is how fast the space opportunity is developing.

These sorts of deals don’t really provide a big immediate financial opportunity. I don’t think it’s exactly going to be a huge money spinner for Nokia. But what it does is reaffirm how fast the commercialisation of space is coming.

It shows us this isn’t a pipe dream full of ifs and buts. This is happening, it’s happening now, and these sorts of commercial deals ratify that within just a few short years, space won’t be the final frontier any more, it’ll just be a regular part of everyday life.


Sam Volkering
Editor, Exponential Investor

Category: Technology

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