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GPS, Galileo Harmonization Talks Advance

By | December 8, 2003

      Concerns that Europe’s proposed Galileo satellite navigation system might interfere with the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) appear to be easing. Talks between U.S. and European officials are leading to informal agreements aimed at avoiding potential interference between the two systems.

      Dave Turner, director of the U.S. government’s Interagency GPS Executive Board (IGEB) Secretariat, told a Dec. 3 conference jointly sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Space Enterprise Council and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, that an informal agreement was recently reached with officials at the European Commission on the signal to use for Galileo’s public regulated service (PRS). That informal agreement still needs to be firmed up, Turner added.

      That development is significant because PRS will be a government-secured system that will have critical uses, such as aiding border patrol and national police forces.

      Charles Trimble, founder of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Trimble Navigation and chairman of the U.S. GPS Industry Council, said the U.S. military is concerned that it be able to deny enemies access to Galileo in the event of a major conflict. The U.S. military currently has the ability to turn off GPS during hostilities, he noted.

      “The U.S. military will be able to send its signal in a form to deny its enemy the use of a signal on a battlefield,” Trimble told SATELLITE NEWS during an interview following his formal remarks at the conference entitled “GPS: Military System/Public Utility.”

      Wolfgang Taubert, counselor for defense cooperation at the German Embassy in Washington, said his government favors the development of a Galileo system that would be compatible with GPS and allow interoperability without interference. To that end, common ground equipment, enhanced accuracy, and improved redundancy would be coveted byproducts, he added.

      French Support?

      Trimble cited French government statements about Galileo that he said could be seen as veiled threats not to harmonize Galileo with GPS, but he said that the French stance was more likely a negotiating ploy than a firm policy. A representative of the French government who attended the conference stressed that the European Commission – not individual governments – is taking the lead in representing Galileo in negotiations.

      Vincent Sabathier, space attaché with France’s Embassy in Washington, said his country is supportive of the EC’s negotiating position and the progress that has been achieved thus far in the talks with U.S. officials. “Negotiations are going very well,” Sabathier said.

      Joseph Bogosian, deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Commerce, told attendees that U.S. policy promotes unimpeded civilian use of positioning signals, no licensing fees, and standardization, among other issues.

      Sales from GPS devices worldwide currently top $9 billion a year and are growing, Bogosian said. In fact, Japan is the world’s largest GPS market, with 44 percent of worldwide annual sales, compared to 30 percent for the United States and 23 percent for all of Europe. New commercial GPS applications are developed every day for use in transportation, recreation, scientific inquiry and environmental protection.

      To further the development of new applications, the U.S. government is committed to cooperate with Europe in its rollout of the Galileo system, Bogosian said. The U.S. policy is to promote compatibility and interoperability between the two systems.

      Trimble supported the U.S. position of not charging licensing or user fees to use the Galileo system.

      Instead of user fees, income taxes paid by European companies providing GPS applications would be a better way to raise government revenues from the deployment of Galileo, Trimble said. A landmark study conducted in the 1990s found that the U.S. government received more money from corporate income taxes than it would from user fees.

      In addition, technical innovations will be built into the Galileo system and those advances will be positive for users and spur the introduction of new applications, Trimble said.

      –Paul Dykewicz

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