Satellite Wars: China unveils ‘cheaper’ answer to GPS

While the US satellite systems become outdated, Russia, China and Europe are all getting a leg-up in technology advances. Given the decades-long Chinese history of spying and electronic espionage, one can also surely bet that all information contained or transferred by the civilian population will be passed on to the regime. There really is no difference between civilian or military technology (… or you name it, big business-wise) in China. The only difference is state-run Capitalism in the hands of those already belonging in the ruling party.

From the Soviet, state-run (FSB) Russia Today:

China’s rapidly-expanding rival to GPS, called BeiDou, has become available to customers across Asia-Pacific for the first time. It aims to claim a fifth of the satellite services market in the region in just three years.

Previously, the satellite constellation was only used by the country’s military and government services. Now, it is being commercialized.

“The services now available include positioning, navigation, timing and short messages for China and surrounding areas. We hope BeiDou conquers 15 to 20 percent of the satellite services market in the Asia Pacific by 2015,”BeiDou spokesman Ran Chengqi announced at a press conference in Beijing, reported by Xinhua news agency.

China says that as it expands worldwide, the state-funded navigation system will bring in revenues of more than $60 billion a year.

At the moment, a user receiving BeiDou’s signal can determine their position to within ten meters. Most civilian GPS users are given positional data that is out by no more than 2 meters, but BeiDou’s makers say their services will be much cheaper than those of the US-government owned GPS.

BeiDou, which is the Chinese term for the Big Dipper star, is also expanding at an impressive rate, meaning it will soon be able to bridge the performance gap.

But even if it matches the performance of the more established rival, BeiDou faces a long road to dislodging it from its dominance. As of now, 95 percent of equipment in China that uses a positioning system – and that includes mobile phones, navigators, watches and ATMs – relies on GPS services. The Chinese satellite data market is estimated to be worth almost $20 billion.

While BeiDou cannot be expected to supplant its successful predecessor instantaneously, many devices may be manufactured to receive signals from both of the systems, particularly with the government encouraging local producers to support the system. BeiDou receiver chips are currently more expensive than those for GPS, but prices should come down as they become more common.

The global satellite navigation segment has become a crowded marketplace over the past decade, and looks to become even more so. Russia recently completed its constellation of Glonass satellites (though it has since lost one). Europe is unrolling its Galileo system, while other countries such as India and Japan plan to develop at least regional navigation networks.

Full article: Satellite Wars: China unveils ‘cheaper’ answer to GPS (Russia Today)

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