China’s Beidou satellite navigation system is now officially available for civilian and commercial use, reports The Verge. It’s currently available only across the Asia-Pacific region. The second generation of the system, known as Compass or BeiDou-2, will provide global coverage with 35 satellites by 2020, according to Chinese officials.
At a press conference yesterday, a spokesman said the service, with 16 satellites, is “comparable” to GPS, and is capable of pinning down locations by 10 meters (about 33 feet). An official version of the complete interface control document outlines the specifications for user equipment.
The start of commercial services comes a year after Beidou — which literally means the Big Dipper in Chinese — began a limited positioning service for China and adjacent areas. The Beidou constellation, also known as Compass, is China’s counterpart to the U.S. Air Force’s Global Positioning System, which provides navigation services to military vehicles, precision munitions, civil aviation, personal cars, boats, and search-and-rescue forces.
There are four major global satellite navigation systems: the US GPS (30 satellites in orbit), Beidou (16 satellites in orbit), Russia’s Glonass (29 satellites in orbit), and the European Union’s Galileo (4 satellites in orbit). GPS is the dominant player, but Ran Chengqi, spokesman for the China Satellite Navigation Office, estimated that the Beidou system will hold 15 to 20 percent of market share (in China) by 2015.
GPS World calls Galileo and Compass: a Tale of Also-Runnings. The GLONASS system currently provides world-wide coverage, similar to GPS. After a deterioration of a few years, deployment of the Russian GLONASS constellation to the full capacity returned in 2011. But an ongoing fraud investigation has afflicted the GLONASS program, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), and the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) in recent years, reports Inside GNNS.
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