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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Press Relations Office > Press Releases (Other) > 2002 > March
Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 7, 2002

U.S. Global Positioning System and European Galileo System

The United States is engaged in a diplomatic effort to promote the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) as a worldwide standard for precise positioning and timing information. Talks are currently underway with the European Union to ensure that Europe’s proposed navigation satellite system, Galileo, will be interoperable with GPS.

U.S. Global Positioning System

  • GPS is a dual-use system, designed to support both civil and military users. The system consists of a minimum of 24 satellites and associated ground support facilities. The satellites emit signals that can be converted by users anywhere in the world into precise timing and positioning information.
  • GPS is operated by the U.S. Air Force, but managed by an Interagency GPS Executive Board (IGEB). The IGEB is co-chaired by the Departments of Defense and Transportation and includes representatives of six other civilian departments and agencies.
  • It has been U.S. policy since 1983 to provide GPS signals to civil users worldwide free of direct user fees. This means that the United States does not charge for the signals transmitted by the GPS satellites. This policy has been supported by both Republican and Democratic Administrations and enjoys strong bipartisan support from Congress. There are no plans to change it.
  • The United States is committed to providing uninterrupted service to civil users around the world. The U.S. military has contingency plans for denying access to the GPS signals to adversaries in specific areas of conflict, but to date this has never been done. GPS service continued without interruption, for example, during the Gulf War and the Kosovo and Afghanistan conflicts.
  • In addition to providing free signals, the United States makes the civil GPS signal specifications available to the public at no charge. This enables businesses, scientific institutions, and government entities anywhere in the world to develop products, services, and research tools on an equal basis.
  • GPS has a wide array of applications. It is particularly important in the fields of surveying and mapping, transportation, agriculture, telecommunications, and natural resources exploration. In these and other fields, GPS has been a catalyst for innovation, leading to better, less expensive ways of performing economic tasks. The number and variety of GPS applications is growing rapidly.
  • The GPS civil service is highly reliable. Detailed information on the operational status of each of the GPS satellites is available to the public through a web site maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard (www.navcen.uscg.gov). Integrity data for the satellites is provided by land-based differential GPS systems and space–based augmentation systems.
  • The United States has launched an extensive modernization program to provide even better service to GPS users. More than one billion dollars has been committed to implement this program over the next several years. The first step was the discontinuation of Selective Availability, the process whereby the civil signals were intentionally degraded, in May 2000. This improved the accuracy of the GPS civil service from 100 meters to 10-20 meters. The next step involves new satellites that will broadcast two new civil signals: one of which will be introduced in 2003, the other in 2005. The added signals will increase the robustness of the civil service and improve accuracy to 3-5 meters. Additional upgrades are being planned for the next generation of satellites, known as GPS III.
  • Users who need even greater accuracy and integrity can take advantage of government augmentation services, such as the Wide Area Augmentation System (and similar European and Japanese systems), the Local Area Augmentation System, commercial augmentation services, and advanced processing services. These services allow millimeter-level accuracy. In addition, innovative American, European, and Japanese companies are combining GPS with other technologies to provide better coverage in urban canyons and indoors.

Galileo: Europe’s Proposed Navigation Satellite System

  • The European Union is considering building its own global navigation satellite system called Galileo. The United States is interested in cooperation with Europe to ensure that Galileo is interoperable with GPS and benefits users on both sides of the Atlantic.

Potential GPS-Galileo Cooperation

  • Users in Europe, North America, and around the world will benefit if Galileo is designed and built so that it is compatible and interoperable with GPS. This requires, among other things, establishing the Galileo technical parameters (for example, signal structure and radiofrequency selection) so that GPS service is not adversely affected.
  • To ensure interoperability and mutual benefits, the United States has proposed an agreement on GPS-Galileo cooperation. A U.S. team has been discussing the proposed agreement with a European Commission-led delegation since October 2000. The talks are likely to continue at least through the end of the 2002. At this point in the dialogue, it remains unclear whether or not a solid basis for cooperation exists.
  • During the course of these ongoing discussions on GPS-Galileo cooperation, the U.S. delegation has raised potential concerns about various aspects of the Galileo project as it has been described by Europe. These potential concerns fall into three broad categories: trade-related, technical, and security.
  • The European Commission is considering options to generate revenue to help pay for Galileo. The U.S. view is that Europe should not opt to use regulations or system-driven standards to mandate the use of Galileo at the expense of GPS manufacturers, service providers, and users. The U.S. view is that users should be free to choose which system or combination of systems best meets their needs. Similarly, the United States would be against any restrictions on access to information on Galileo that non-European companies may need to participate fully in the equipment and services markets.
  • In the course of the ongoing discussions on GPS-Galileo cooperation, the U.S. delegation has emphasized that it would be unacceptable for Galileo to overlay the same portion of the radiofrequency spectrum used by the GPS military service. The United States would be opposed to anything that would degrade the GPS signals (civil or military), diminish the ability to deny access to positioning signals to adversaries in time of crisis, or undermine NATO cohesion.
  • The United States hopes that these and other issues can be resolved during future discussions with the European Commission and EU members.

Released on March 7, 2002

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