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The administrative body behind the European satellite navigation system, Galileo, has asked the two groups that had been competing to run the system to join forces and handle the project together.

The deal gives the groups, iNavSat and Eurely, the right to operate the satellite network for the next 20 years, and entitles them to pocket any commercial benefits. The two consortiums will now work together over the next six months to hammer out the fine detail of how the multi-billion euro deal will work.

iNavSat's member companies are aerospace giant EADS, Thales (France) and Inmarsat (UK), while Eurely comprises Alcatel (France), Finmeccanica (Italy) and AENA and Hispasat, both from Spain.

The Galileo Joint Undertaking said that each of the two bids had strengths in different areas. "We found areas where each side could offer something that was just a bit more attractive," Lyn Dutton, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) development manager with Thales told the BBC. "That enabled us to take the peaks from the two sides and come up with an offer that was better for the public sector."

Galileo will provide an EU-controlled alternative to the US GPS satellite navigation system. It is designed for civilian use, and will offer more detailed resolution that its US counterpart. The project will cost an estimated €3.7bn, of which €2.1bn will be spent on deployment. Two thirds of this investment will come from industry.

The European Union says that the venture, supported by more than a billion euros of public funds - will create between 100,000 and 150,000 jobs in the region. It is also expected to generate revenues of more than €10bn annually, by 2020. ®

Bootnote:

The BBC story explains that part of the strength of the Galileo system will come from its ability "to work seamlessly with the existing US Global Positioning System (GPS)". This is a fair statement, provided your definition of "working seamlessly" extends to include the US reserving the right to shoot Galileo satellites out of orbit if it thinks the system is being used by its enemies.

Related stories

UK road pricing plan heralds the ID card for cars
Galileo seeks clever uses of sat nav
Galileo concession still up for grabs

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