U.S., Europe to debate GPS issues

Representatives from the United States and Europe will discuss later this month how to make Europe's planned Galileo Satellite Navigation System compatible with the U.S. Global Positioning System, the State Department said.

The meeting, to be held in Washington, will evaluate use of a signal structure, called Open Service, introduced by the European Commission last November.

"I think any meeting between the U.S. and E.U. on the matter of Galileo is very significant, especially in the context of U.S.-EU relations," said Patrick Collins, an analyst for Frost and Sullivan, a market consulting firm based in San Antonio. "The U.S. wants a less effective European system'or that's the way Europeans feel."

Galileo is Europe's answer to GPS. It will offer similar functionality and is scheduled to be operational in 2008. Although it was conceived as primarily serving a commercial market, plans for military use are also being considered.

Both the Defense Department and NATO have expressed concerns over the use of Galileo for military use. Because Galileo will deploy spectrum now used for GPS military use, it would be difficult to jam the Galileo signal without also causing interference to the GPS signal.

Such jamming would be necessary "to deny a potential adversary's access to the satellite positioning services available from any other satellite navigation services during a conflict," said Robert G. Bell, NATO assistant secretary general for defense support, at a June 2002 conference.

GPS satellites emit location and time signals that are used by devices to determine their own global coordinates and velocities. Although established for military use in 1973, the Defense Department opened GPS use to all users worldwide, without cost.

The Interagency GPS Executive Board (www.igeb.gov) is in the early stages of upgrading the GPS satellites and ground supporting facilities, referred to as GPS III. The Chicago-based Boeing Co. announced last week that it won a $20.8 million contract from the Air Force to perform systems requirement review for the upgrade. The Interagency GPS Executive Board is jointly chaired by the departments of Defense and Transportation.

In addition to military concerns, the talks will address other civil use issues, according to the State Department announcement.

Collins has speculated that the United States is also weighing Galileo's likely economic impact.

"Military concerns are extremely important, but they are somewhat overshadowed by the potential long-term gains in the industrial policy point of view," Collins said. "I think the long-run economic gains from having a proprietary system [such as Galileo] could be huge."

Once Galileo is in place, companies could make use of the system for location-aware applications, in much the same way many commercial devices now use GPS. Frost and Sullivan has estimated that Galileo could generate $650 million in annual revenue.

"The U.S. would want to see GPS maintain as much advantage for as long as possible, at least until GPS III could be rolled out to minimize any leap that Europe could take over GPS," Collins said.

(Posted 5:36 p.m. Jan. 14 and corrected 11:14 a.m. Jan. 15)

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.


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