Will Nokia's deal with Glonass threaten GPS and Galileo?

Will Nokia's deal with Glonass threaten GPS and Galileo?

10 August 2011 by Pelle Neroth

It's very early days yet. But a Swedish satellite network has just praised the Russian equivalent of America's Global Positioning System (GPS) as being "better for northern latitudes". And Nokia just today, according to Reuters, signed on with Glonass, announcing it is to install it on some of its mobile phones next year.

Finland, of course, has traditionally shown geopolitical sensitivity to Russian and, in earlier times, Soviet needs, and Russian ministers have been upset that uptake seems slower than they had hoped, not least because some in the domestic Russian media were sceptical that there was a point in having a domestic system that would just duplicate GPS.

In April this year, one well known Russian mobile phone reviewer, Eldar Mutazin, dismissed the first Russian handset to come on to the market with Glonass capabilities, called MTS Glonass 945, for being twice as expensive, the equivalent of £250, as handsets with only GPS. The Russian government is considering a 25% tax on foreign handsets that do not have Glonass installed, and that may have been a contributing reason behind Nokia's decision. The Finnish company sells hundreds of thousands of handsets in Russia each year.

Nokia is the first international handset maker to adopt the Russian system. Talks are said to be under way with Motorola too.

Russia has been developing Glonass since 1976, and in recent years the project has been swallowing up to a third of the Russian space budget of $6bn.

Progress had been very tardy over the decades, with the system put on the slow burner during the Soviet's Union's decline and collapse, but president Vladimir Putin made investment in the system a priority after he came to power in 2000 to help wean the country off dependence on Western technology.

Since then, taxis, dump trucks, emergency vehicles and even Putin's pet dog have had devices installed that track their location. Large scale consumer roll-out has been so far somewhat lacking, though.

Coverage of Russia's massive territory has been complete for some time, but the company's global ambitions received a setback in December 2010 when a rocket carrying three satellites to complete coverage crashed and sank in the Indian Ocean.

The current number in orbit is 24 satellites, just about the minimum for global coverage, but the company recently said it expects 29 to be aloft by the end of the year, the replacements having been rebuilt.

Success at capturing the interest of western handset makers could represent a real threat to the Chinese Compass and the EU taxpayer funded Galileo systems, the latter of which won't be ready until 2020, after the predicable Brussels bureaucratic squabbles, cost over-runs and time delays.

As for all dominant GPS, Glonass executives say they only want to complement, not compete with, GPS, hoping handsets will be dual capability, increasing accuracy compared to GPS only equipment. By tuning into Glonass and GPS at the same time, a GPS chip can get a position fix more quickly and accurately than before. This is especially true in urban areas where high rises can block line of sight reception from satellites.

But at the same time, Glonass bosses boast that the Swedish network of satellite reference stations, SEPOS, has already claimed the Russian system better for their purposes. Because of Glonass's particular orbit, it offers a greater accuracy at northern latitudes than the American rival.
Useful, then for northern Scandinavia, but also - thinking of the future - shipping and prospecting in the melting Arctic, which all the major powers are queuing up to exploit.

GPS has an enormous lead and may even be boosted by Glonass's complementarity, but I'd guess there are commission officials in Brussels are biting their nails at today's news, and the fact that Europe's own baby is nine years away.

-------------------------
Pelle Neroth -- EU correspondent

Edited: 10 August 2011 at 09:12 PM by Pelle Neroth

Share |

   

    Posted By: Pelle Neroth @ 10 August 2011 09:06 PM     Space  

FuseTalk Standard Edition - © 1999-2016 FuseTalk Inc. All rights reserved.

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1605

"We visit Barcelona, one of the smartest cities in the world, to find out what makes it so special. What does it look like and what is the future?"

E&T jobs

  • Senior Development Engineer, Electronics

    Premium job

    Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation
    • Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire
    • Competitive

    We are an innovative, robust and fast growing business, whose main focus is to deliver continues improvement to existing products and offer new sol..

    • Recruiter: Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation

    Apply for this job

  • Smart Grid Research Engineer

    Premium job

    University of Strathclyde
    • Cumbernauld, Glasgow
    • Grade: 6/7* £26,537 - £37,768*

    Work as part of a growing dynamic team on a wide range of technical projects with particular emphasis on experimental validation and testing

    • Recruiter: University of Strathclyde

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Asset Specialist

    Affinity Water
    • Hatfield, Hertfordshire

    Responsible for updating and writing electrical engineering standards, approved codes of practice and safe systems of work

    • Recruiter: Affinity Water

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Electronics Engineer

    York Instruments
    • York, North Yorkshire

    Senior electronics engineer to work as part of a team developing an MEG imaging system; working with the engineering team and external contractors.

    • Recruiter: York Instruments

    Apply for this job

  • Manufacturing Engineer - Circuit Card Assembly

    MBDA
    • Lostock Junction
    • Competitive Salary & Benefits

    What’s the opportunity?   Manufacturing UK is an integral part of the Operations Directorate whose principal mission is to ensure that MBDA’s deliverable commitments are met...

    • Recruiter: MBDA

    Apply for this job

  • High Voltage Engineer

    Premium job

    Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment
    • Great Dunmow, Essex

    This High Voltage Engineer will provide design leadership for high voltage cable assemblies up to one megavolt.

    • Recruiter: Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment

    Apply for this job

  • Team Leader - Flank Arrays

    BAE Systems
    • Barrow-In-Furness, Cumbria, England
    • Negotiable

    Team Leader - Flank Arrays Would you like to work in a unique role within the construction of the Astute Class submarines? We currently have a vacancy for a Team Leader - Flank Arrays at our site in Barrow-in-Furness. As a Team Leader - Flank Arrays, you

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Electronics and Software Engineer

    Copley Scientific Ltd
    • Nottingham
    • circa £35,000 per annum + bonus

    Develop new test equipment for the pharmaceutical industry. Good opportunities to grow and develop. Successful family-owned and managed business.

    • Recruiter: Copley Scientific Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Intelligent Transport Systems Engineer - Highways Technology

    Premium job

    Mott MacDonald
    • Birmingham, West Midlands

    Our transport technology team in Birmingham is currently growing a highly skilled and customer-focused team to...

    • Recruiter: Mott MacDonald

    Apply for this job

  • Analogue Electronics Engineer

    Premium job

    Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF)
    • Uppsala (Stad) (SE)

    The Swedish Institute of Space Institute (IRF) in Uppsala search for an analogue electronics engineer.

    • Recruiter: Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF)

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶

Subscribe

Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T