China Plans Its Own Global Positioning System

 - December 15, 2006, 8:38 AM

China has disclosed that it intends to build a GPS-like global navigation system. Named Compass, the $2 billion system would have 30 satellites in medium earth orbits similar to the current GPS. Five additional satellites will provide WAAS-like and other functions, with a forecast 10-meter accuracy free to all users. Western experts predict likely operation between 2015 and 2020. The announcement surprised many observers because China had previously invested more than $200 million in Europe’s Galileo satnav consortium. However, China’s full consortium membership request was denied and its “participant” status excludes it from technical development activities. Observers believe that those decisions triggered China’s own GPS initiative. U.S. and European officials are concerned about China’s frequency filings for Compass because the system’s proposed frequencies overlay the highly encrypted military GPS M-Code, plus a key Galileo service. Resolving the situation will likely require extensive technical and political negotiations.