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Satellite Technology Feature Article

December 31, 2012

BeiDou Claims to Provide Cheaper Services Compared to GPS

By Tabitha Naylor, Contributing Writer

For the first time, BeiDou, China’s rapidly-expanding rival to GPS, has become available to customers across Asia-Pacific. In just three years, it aims to claim one-fifth of the satellite services market in the region. Previously, the country's military and government services were the only ones who used the satellite constellation and now it is being commercialized.

“The services now available include positioning, navigation, timing and short messages for China and surrounding areas. We hope BeiDou conquers 15 to 20 percent of the satellite services market in the Asia Pacific by 2015,” BeiDou spokesman Ran Chengqi revealed at a press conference in Beijing, reported by Xinhua news agency.

China mentions that the state-funded navigation system will bring in revenue of more than $60 billion a year as it expands worldwide. At the moment, users who receive BeiDou’s signal can determine their position to within ten meters whereas most civilian GPS users are given positional data that is out by no more than two meters.

BeiDou’s makers’ claim that compared to the US-government owned GPS, its services will be much cheaper. With a possibility to soon bridge the performance gap, BeiDou, which is the Chinese term for the Big Dipper star, is also expanding at an impressive rate. Since the 1970s, GPS has been active, and for two decades, it has satellites in orbit that have been operating. The first of its current generation satellites, however, was launched by BeiDou only five years ago.

On the contrary, while GPS comprises 30 satellites, BeiDou already has over fifteen and according to Chengqi, by the time the network is complete in 2020, it will have another forty in orbit, at the cost of another $6 billion. To calculate location, time and velocity of moving objects, a greater number of satellites make it easier for the system.

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Edited by Allison Boccamazzo

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