...by other figures at the event, such as Scott Stonham of Openwave, a company developing location software for handsets. Stonham said Galileo would "help drive political exposure" for location-based services, perhaps even driving a mandate for GNSS capabilities on handsets, as has happened in the US and Japan. There, the justification for the mandate has been to make it easier for emergency services to locate a caller who needs their help.
"I can't imagine Europe putting the lives of European citizens in the hands of a US-based technology," said Stonham. That view was echoed by Professor Jonathan Raper of City University, an authority on geographical information systems and location-based services, who also pointed out that "we cannot put ourselves in the hands of a system that can be turned off at any time by the US military".
Describing Galileo as a "European virility symbol", Raper said the system was not only of immense geopolitical importance, but also "evidence that Europe has got its technological self-confidence back". Crucially, said Raper, Galileo will be unlike GPS in that it has not been designed as a primarily military system with a free public side, but as a multi-layered and largely commercial venture. This has meant that a "grand coalition" of governments was needed to fund Galileo, and it has been "difficult to present all the technology until the alliance is stable".
"It has not been organised like a traditional product launch. Galileo is not being procured, it's being invented," Raper explained, calling the project "R&D in real time". "It is probably unique as a technological development [in that] the stakeholders are being found as they go along," Raper added, pointing out that the signal structure has only just been agreed. This agreement involved unprecedented concessions from the US military in exchange for a guarantee that Galileo would not interfere with GPS.
Although this complicated and delicate process is certainly progressing, with the launch of the first Galileo satellite in December, it is still leaving many in the mobile industry undecided.
"We all recognise that Galileo is important and we are tracking the deployments," Shekhar Somanath, of chipset-maker Qualcomm, told ZDNet UK. "But we need to see satellites up in the air and operators interested".