HELSINKI - More than 50 years after humans took their first small steps on the Moon, Nokia is set to take a giant leap forward in expanding the telecom industry’s reach in space.

The Finnish firm has announced that its US subsidiary has been awarded a $14.1m (£10.8m) contract by Nasa to deploy an “ultra-compact, low-power, space-hardened” wireless 4G network on the lunar surface.

The plan is part of the US space agency’s Artemis programme, “which aims to send the first woman, and next man, to the Moon by 2024”, and then establish settlements there, says The Guardian.

“Leveraging our rich and successful history in space technologies, from pioneering satellite communication to discovering the cosmic microwave background radiation produced by the Big Bang, we are now building the first ever cellular communications network on the Moon,” Nokia chief technology officer Marcus Weldon said in a statement.

“Reliable, resilient and high-capacity communications networks will be key to supporting sustainable human presence on the lunar surface.”

Nokia is teaming up with Texas-based spacecraft design company Intuitive Machines to use a lunar hopper to install the network equipment remotely in late 2022, “before humans make it back there”, says Reuters.

The technology should provide connectivity for “any activity that astronauts need to carry out”, from “voice and video communications capabilities” to “deployment and control of robotic and sensor payloads”, according to Nokia.

Sky News reports that Nokia’s lunar network will be “a little different from what it uses on Earth, primarily because the kit itself needs to be able to ‘withstand the harsh conditions of the launch and lunar landing, and to operate in the extreme conditions of space’”.

“But, other than that, it will be normal 4G, including a base station, radio antennas, and user equipment,” says the news site.

And as on Earth, the 4G gear “can be updated to a super-fast 5G network in the future”, adds The Guardian.