Thailand will become the first overseas client to use the Beidou navigation system, China's answer to the American-owned GPS.
Under a 2 billion yuan (US$322 million) deal, China will promote the use of Beidou in Thailand's public sector, according to a report Thursday by South China Morning Post (SCMP). Uses include disaster relief, power distribution and transport, the article noted.
The Chinese government's push in Thailand is seen as a strategic move to promote its satellite service.
The SCMP cited a Beidou researcher at Wuhan University, who said Thailand was a major ally of the United States and relied heavily on GPS. "If Thailand can embrace Beidou, other countries may follow and the Americans' political, economic and military power in the region will be reduced," the expert noted.
The deal will also see China build a national remote sensing system based on Beidou for Thailand, It will also include a large satellite ground station with an industrial park for the development and production of Beidou receivers for the wider Southeast Asian market, said SCMP.
China has been pushing its Beidou system at home, most recently in January mandating its use for commercial vehicles. It has also been looking to introduce favorable policies and attract investments for the system by making it available for commercial mobile phone services.
Since the launch of the regional service last year, Beidou has struggled in the domestic Chinese market due to the dominance of GPS, except for in the military and public sectors, and a few small commercial sectors such as fishing, noted SCMP. It noted Beidou was still a regional system and is expected to provide global coverage by 2020.
Europe, to promote its own answer to the GPS, launched a competition this week looking for ideas to help commercialize the Galileo satellite navigation system by creating new technologies based around satellite data.