The Federal Communications Commission has cleared the way for Galileo, Europe’s global navigation satellite system, to augment GPS signals in the U.S. According to the agency, the two systems are interoperable and radiofrequency compatible, allowing GPS users to “benefit from improved availability, reliability, and resiliency of [Galileo’s] position, navigation, and timing services” in the U.S.
Since the debut of the first consumer handheld GPS device in 1989, consumers and industry in the U.S. have relied solely on the U.S. GPS to support satellite-based positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) services. Non-certified GPS devices will require software updates to access the 30 satellites in the Galileo network, augmenting the 31 satellites in the U.S. GPS network. According to Garmin, certified avionics using the Galileo network aren't expected until 2021 or 2022 since error rates and availability data has not yet been released, nor have RTCA standards been developed.
While the FCC’s order permits access to the radionavigation-satellite service frequency bands (RNSS) in which the U.S. GPS satellite signals operate, it does not grant access to the Galileo E6 signal, which is transmitted over the 1260- to 1300-MHz frequency band, since this is not allocated for RNSS in the U.S. or used by GPS to provide PNT services. Granting access to the Galileo E6 signal “could constrain U.S. spectrum management in the future…above 1300 MHz,” the FCC explained.