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Pakistan signs up for China's GPS rival

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China’s home-grown sat-nav system Beidou (BDS) is expected to add yet another customer after Pakistan signed up to host ground stations for the service.

Pakistan will follow Thailand, Laos and Brunei in becoming a Beidou customer later this month, according to China Daily.

Huang Lei, international business director of Beijing BDStar Navigation, told the paper that the construction of continuously operating reference stations (CORS), which collect and transmit satellite data, would help to increase Beidou’s accuracy in Pakistan.

With the number of Beidou satellites orbiting the earth now at 16, that accuracy is fine for the Asia Pacific region, but China will need to send up as many again to provide a satisfactory service worldwide.

The plan is to spend in the region of 40 billion yuan ($US6.4 billion) over the next few years to make that a reality by 2020.

The Chinese government has already weighed in to spur BDS take-up domestically, mandating its use in several classes of transport earlier this year.

In addition, support for BDS is already being engineered into mobile devices, although alongside, rather than in preference for alternatives GPS, Europe’s Galileo and the Russian GLONASS system.

As with most of China’s ICT plans, the idea here is to reduce the nation’s dependence on Western technologies - in this case the US-led GPS, because satellite navigation is of particular military significance in the event of a conflict. ®

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