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China's Beidou satnav will open to mobe-makers

Meanwhile in Europe, Galileo gets a firm fix

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China will shortly open its Beidou satnav system to mobile phone makers.

Yang Qiangwen, billed by China's official press agnecy Xinhua as “a leading scientist with the China Satellite Navigation Office”, let it be known that the agency is "… seeking favorable policies and attracting investment to promote the technology for public use.”

"It will not be long before mobile phones adopt the Beidou system,” he told the state-controlled news agency.

China recently mandated use of Beidou in civil transport applications. Opening China's 16 satnav birds to connections from mobile handsets will mean the nation's hundreds of millions of mobile phone users – increasing numbers of whom use smartphones – can have their handsets tell them where to go without any US interference with the signals sent by its GPS service.

Whatever the motive, China's (mostly) planned economy means local mobe-makers will doubtless take the hint and point their handsets at Beidou. They would probably have done so without much pushing, as multi-constellation capable devices are rapidly becoming a de facto standard. The reasoning behind that move is simple: if a device can tune in to more than one fleet of navigation satellites it will likely enjoy a good connection on more occasions, resulting in a better end-user experience.

Another of the choices available to mobe-makers and others who use satellite navigation is Europe's Galileo service. In mid-March the European Space Agency, which operates Galileo, proudly told world+dog it had achieved “the very first determination of a ground location using the four Galileo satellites currently in orbit together with their ground facilities.” The test located an object to within ten to fifteen metres and its success was hailed as proof Galileo works as advertised.

The European system currently has four satellites aloft, with 26 to come. 16 Beidou birds already circle the earth, out of a planned 35. ®

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