The shift towards a multi-constellation GNSS environment

Carlo des Dorides. The shift towards a multi-constellation GNSS environmentWith the launch of Galileo Initial Services and the availability of numerous Galileo-enabled chipsets and receivers, users are benefiting from the stronger GNSS performance that a multi-constellation environment provides.

As the GSA’s GNSS Market Report shows, the global GNSS market remains dynamic. GNSS is used around the globe, with 3.6 billion GNSS devices in use in 2014. By 2019, this is forecasted to increase to over 7 billion – an average of one device per person on the planet. Smartphones continue to dominate, being the most popular platform to access location-based services, followed by devices used for road applications. Other devices may be less numerous, but billions of passengers, professionals, consumers and citizens worldwide benefit from their application in efficient and safe transport networks, in productive and sustainable agriculture, and in surveying and critical infrastructures.

“Although these numbers and forecasts are exciting, the real development – and the most important as it allows all of these devices to work better – is the shift towards a true multi-constellation environment made possible by last year’s Declaration of Galileo Initial Services,” says GSA Executive Director Carlo des Dorides.

With Galileo Initial Services, users around the world are now being guided using the positioning, navigation and timing information provided by Galileo’s global satellite constellation. Regardless of location, all one needs is a mass-market device containing a Galileo-enabled chipset, such as a smartphone or a vehicle navigation device. According to a May 2016 GSA study, nearly 60 % of all available receivers, chipsets and modules support a minimum of two constellations. Of these, nearly 40 % are Galileo-compatible – a figure that is increasing every day.

Today, numerous companies produce Galileo-ready chips, including such key chipset manufacturers as u-blox, Broadcom, Mediatek, Intel and Qualcomm. There are also a number of Galileo-ready smartphones and in-vehicle navigation systems on the market. “All of this clearly shows that a multi-constellation capability that includes Galileo is becoming a standard feature across all market segments,” says des Dorides.

A full list of available Galileo-compatible products can be found at useGalileo.eu.

GPS-compatible
This multi-constellation environment is possible because Galileo was built to be fully interoperable/compatible with other GNSS systems, including GPS. The EU and the USA have been close partners in the area of satellite navigation since 2004, when both signed a historic agreement establishing cooperation between GPS and Europe’s then-planned Galileo system. The cooperation aimed to ensure that GPS and Galileo would be interoperable at the user level for the benefit of civil users around the world and that, together, they would facilitate the growth of the GNSS market – commitments that are bearing fruit today.

The combination of Galileo and GPS provides users with considerable improvements, including stronger performance and service levels. “As Galileo joins GPS and other global and regional GNSS systems, the multi-constellation concept is becoming a reality,” says des Dorides. “With 11 Galileo satellites working together with GPS, there are now more satellites in the sky, meaning more accurate positioning for the end-user.” Des Dorides notes that those using navigation devices in cities, where tall buildings often block satellite signals, will particularly notice the increase in positioning accuracy provided by the multi-constellation environment.

The importance of international cooperation
As multi-GNSS applications continue to be developed, international cooperation becomes increasingly vital. In support of this, the GSA plays an essential role in facilitating this international cooperation. For example, the GSA:

  • encourages international industrial cooperation
  • funds numerous R&D initiatives, including those happening outside the EU
  • provides monitoring and analysis of the international GNSS market (for this, see the GSA’s GNSS Market Report and the GNSS User Technology Report)
  • supports global scientific, academic and research activities
  • develops technical solutions and international standards
  • helps raise awareness of European GNSS by participating in events, conferences and workshops across the globe
  • is an active participant in the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (ICG), under the umbrella of the United Nations.
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