Nationalism vs. technology

GCN Insider | Politics bogs down the Galileo civil navigation system

There's nothing wrong with a little nationalism to drive technology. After all, it got the first Ferris wheel built. And it spurred the United States to the moon.
The only snag is when the nation isn't big enough to do the job by itself. Then nationalism can get in the way of cooperation and bollix everything up.
That may be what's happening with the European Community's Galileo satellite project.

Only last July, the EU and United States agreed to use the same radio frequency on the 24 U.S. Global Positioning System Navstar satellites and the planned network of 30 GPS satellites in the European Galileo system, scheduled to be deployed by 2010.

The European GPS system is reputed to be more accurate than the older U.S. technology and is capable of locating objects within 3.3 feet, compared with 16.4 feet for the existing GPS standard. Even better, if both networks of GPS satellites were able to work together ' as the European/U.S. agreement was intended to enable ' the coverage of the combined GPS system would more than double. That would allow GPS functionality in remote areas, the shadows of buildings and other locations where service is currently spotty.

Now, however, the Galileo project ' which was sold to Europeans as a means of avoiding dependency on the U.S. system ' is suffering the slings and arrows of nationalistic competitiveness.

Companies from France, Germany, Spain, Britain and Italy have bogged down the project in a dispute over development of the system. With private funds from those countries now in doubt ' and private investment was expected to cover two-thirds of the cost of the project ' the EU must now decide whether and how to expand its financial commitment to keep the project alive.

The cost of a bailout of the Galileo project is estimated at a little more than $3 billion. EU ministers are expected to debate the matter in October.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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