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Taking networking to extremes

Nokia has a reputation for many things like quality, reliability and great product design — we’re perhaps not yet thought of as being technology disruptors. However right now, our people, thinking and networks are causing a stir across major global industries by enabling extreme, world-first applications in tough locations.

These applications and solutions require extreme feats of engineering and logistics that competitors are left scrambling to match as we live out our mission: creating the technology to connect the world. And now that mission is going beyond our world...

For example, Nokia is building on our Telstar 1/space satellite heritage and now, half a century later, is embarking on a Mission to the Moon with our strategic partners at Vodafone. Nokia together with Vodafone is boldly going where no mobile network has gone before, building the world’s first lunar LTE network able to survive in a tough moonscape. With temperatures plummeting to 160°C in the shade, dust 1,000 times finer than on earth and intense radiation from the sun, Mission to the Moon is pushing the team at Nokia Bell Labs to the very limits of engineering. 

Drop your gaze a little lower in the skies and you’ll see Project Loon in action in which Nokia plays a keyrole, together with X (formerly Google X). Loon is a network of base stations on gas-filled balloons which ride stratospheric winds traveling on the edge of space, designed to extend Internet connectivity to people in rural and remote areas worldwide.

These balloons look very beautiful, but this project isn’t an artistic flight of fancy; it’s delivering real-world benefits. With more than half of the world's population still without Internet access, the social and economic impact of this project isn’t to be underestimated, bringing connectivity and new possibilities to populations in remote locations that have been deprived until now.

After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico at the end of 2017, Nokia helped Project Loon, AT&T and T-Mobile to deliver hundreds of gigabytes to desperate people without internet connectivity, offering some measure of relief during a very difficult time. Getting our solution to a point where we could put it into a balloon has required real agility and an out-of-the-box mindset. With a network of stratospheric balloons, everything must be solar powered. Working in collaboration with X, we tuned our high performance, high capacity LTE software to work on a platform that runs on solar panels and batteries. As well as putting solar-powered base stations on stratospheric balloons, Nokia is engineering unique air to ground LTE networks that are transforming the airline industry.


After 8 years of research in this domain we are so proud to have it now live together with Deutsche Telekom -  covering the entire European Airspace. As we speak, we are equipping with our aviation partners hundreds of commercial aircrafts and delivering to passengers travelling at 30.000 feet at sonic speed over 28 countries a true home like broadband service. By applying the benefits of an LTE approach for the airline industry, we’ve been able to create disruptive new customer propositions from the ground up: from the highest possible bandwidth to easy scaling, low latency, seamless availability, fast installation, low weight and drag and total new user experiences.

Our vision is for a massive broadband deployment - across the skies of the world, from the ground through lower and upper air space to Low Earth Orbit and space; home-style and mission-critical everywhere.

Nokia is also literally crossing oceans to connect industry, populations and the planet. With oceans covering more than 70 percent of the earth's surface, our robust undersea fiber optic cables are the most efficient and reliable way to bring high-speed telecommunications services to population centers around the globe.

Did you know that undersea fiber optic cables connect most of the world's people, businesses and institutions —not satellites? The submarine cable systems crisscrossing the ocean floor carry the majority of our international communications and data and form the backbone for the data centers powering the world wide web. Nokia has laid more than 590,000km of cable under the sea — that’s the world’s largest installed base of cables— serviced by a fleet of seven fully equipped cable ships. These carry the high engine power, thrusters and dynamic positioning tools needed to work in extreme weather conditions as well as the high-tow force, heavy-duty ploughs for cable burial.

They also service a Nokia-enabled network of off-shore scientific observatories and research centers as well as oil and gas rigs: all extreme environments that need powerful, reliable connectivity.

Beyond this, our new 5G networks are evolving as you read this with a radical new kind of architecture, built on open standards. They’re enabling opportunities for low latency, pop-up technology anywhere, like hotspots on steroids. This new generation of radio systems and network architecture will deliver exceptional broadband,ultra-robust low-latency connectivity, and massive networking to support all sorts of extreme use cases. Festival in the middle of a forest? No problem. Research facility on a mountain summit? You got it.

So next time you think of extreme applications and disruptive deployments, think Nokia. Where would you like to take networking next?

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokia and @BellLabs using #missiontothemoon, #5G, #LTE, #smallcells, #EuropeanAviationNetwork

Thorsten Robrecht

About Thorsten Robrecht

Thorsten is vice president, Vertical Network Slices, Nokia and excited to be leading this growth area, which creates innovative end-to-end solutions within the merging telco and IT industry. His focus areas include: Car2X, manufacturing, logistics, media & entertainment and public safety.

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