Galileo project 'hindering' phone sat-nav rollout

Galileo project 'hindering' phone sat-nav rollout

Summary: O2 executive claims poor communication from the team behind Europe's answer to GPS is slowing down the adoption of satellite navigation in handsets

TOPICS: Networking

Europe's upcoming satellite constellation, Galileo, is becoming a barrier to the integration of satellite navigation into European handsets, a mobile operator claimed last week.

According to Ian Curran, head of telematics and machine-to-machine communications at O2, operators and manufacturers remain uncertain over the deployment schedule for Galileo and the likely quality of its signal. Although the mobile industry wants to put some form of global navigation satellite system (GNSS) functionality into phones, some companies within it are hesitant about which system to use.

The only GNSS currently in action is GPS, the American system designed and run by the US military. Already familiar to many people as the technology behind vehicle satellite navigation and fleet tracking, a server-assisted version called assisted GPS or A-GPS — which promises quicker location-finding — is set to be used in handsets around the world.

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However, Galileo — which should be fully operational by the end of 2008 — will supposedly provide greater accuracy, leaving some in the industry wondering whether they should invest in compatibility with GPS, Galileo or both (a path that appears to have been taken by the UK-based chipset manufacturer CSR). This indecision, said Curran at a conference held at the National Physical Laboratory on Thursday, is slowing things down.

"The Galileo timescales and deployment may actually hinder our adoption [of GNSS]," Curran told delegates at the Mobile and GPS/GNSS event in London. "We still need to have better engagement to see how they are going to deploy."

We cannot put ourselves in the hands of a system that can be turned off at any time by the US military

Professor Jonathan Raper, City University

Speaking to ZDNet UK later, Curran explained that location-based services were slowly starting to mature through the use of Cell ID (a method of ascertaining location through the mobile signal, but which offers far lower accuracy than GPS), but were not being met by any testable information on what Galileo will have to offer.

"With Galileo not on stream yet, we can't use that signal. We don't know what the quality of service is at this point in time," said Curran, who complained of a lack of information from the EU team behind Galileo. "When do we change timing and synchronisation over to Galileo? Our people need to understand the rollout schedules clearly," he added.

The team behind Galileo had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.

The importance of Galileo was also emphasised...

Topic: Networking

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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