Europe’s Galileo Could Come at a Cost to Users

 - May 31, 2012, 3:55 PM

The basic precept of international GNSS is that public services will be available to all users without user charges or other fees. Separately, each system can transmit unique highly classified frequencies–such as the military codes used by the U.S.’s GPS, Russia’s Glonass, China’s Compass and the fee-paying civil applications for enhanced accuracy and integrity signals from Europe’s Galileo–but none affects public services.

But a back-door maneuver could change that arrangement for Galileo. A commercial trading subsidiary of the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) is now seeking royalties from civil GPS receiver manufacturers, based on its patented design adopted for GPS/Galileo interoperability, which is essential to seamless transition between the two. Reportedly, U.S. officials have lodged strong protests to the UK MoD, citing the fundamental precept of free civil access to worldwide GNSS.

However, sources have told AIN that the MoD subsidiary’s charter legally encourages it to seek commercial royalties, although the MoD is reportedly “extremely embarrassed” that its hands are therefore tied. The MoD acknowledges that a solution must be found, since permitting GNSS royalties would have extremely negative consequences.