The moon could get 4G mobile phone network next year, 50 years after the first Nasa astronauts touched down on the lunar surface.

Vodafone Germany, Nokia and Audi said today they were working together to support the mission that could allow lunar rovers to communicate with each other, according to the Daily Mail.

If it goes ahead this would also enable high-definition live streaming from the lunar landscape back to Earth.

It is part of a project to eventually make trips to the moon commercially viable.

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Vodafone said it had appointed Nokia as its technology partner to develop a space-grade network which would be a small piece of hardware weighing less than a bag of sugar.

The plan is to connect two Audi lunar rovers to a base station in the Autonomous Landing and Navigation Module (ALINA).

The 4G network will enable the Audi lunar rovers to transfer scientific data and HD video while they study Nasa's Apollo 17 lunar roving vehicle that was used by the last astronauts to walk on the Moon.

Researchers said the two rovers would also send live HD pictures to Earth as they travel to within 200 metres (656 feet) of the rover.

The companies are working with Berlin-based company PTScientists on the project, with a launch scheduled in 2019 from Cape Canaveral on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, Vodafone said.

"This project involves a radically innovative approach to the development of mobile network infrastructure," Vodafone Germany Chief Executive Hannes Ametsreiter said.

One executive involved said the decision to build a 4G network rather a state-of-the-art 5G network was taken because the next generation networks remain in the testing and trial stage.

This means it might not be stable enough to work from the lunar surface.

Last year Audi said it would be getting a private lunar lander on the moon's surface carrying two Audi lunar rovers.

The private company creating the rovers hopes their budget mission will eventually make trips to the moon commercially viable.

The rovers will travel to the moon on board one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets – a place on which cost £100 million ($191m).

In comparison, the average cost for Nasa to launch a space shuttle is £350m.

It is hoped the probes will be able to scan the Apollo vehicle and assess its condition, including any possible damage caused by intense radiation, extreme temperatures, and micro-meteorites.

According to the engineering team behind the rover, Audi has helped it to perfect a 3D-printing process to manufacturer the vehicle from titanium and aluminium.