Europe and US finalise GPS-Galileo system

Single device will be able to receive signals from both satellite systems, improving the quality of data gathered in harsh conditions

The EU and the US have put the finishing touches to a system designed to enable signals from their respective satellite navigation systems to be picked up on the same receiver device in future.

A joint compatibility and interoperability working group has been working since 2004 to design an interoperable signal system that can bring together signals from the EU's Galileo satellite system and the GPS satellites run by the US.

The idea is to use signals from both systems to improve the quality of data gathered in challenging environments where there may be significant interference, as well as to provide more comprehensive global coverage.

US State Department principal deputy assistant secretary, Reno Harnish, said in a statement: "This technical milestone represents the next step in our ongoing commitment to open standards and market-driven innovation that will benefit all users worldwide."

The EU's Galileo system is not due to become fully operational until 2012. But European Commission director general Matthias Ruete said the interoperability agreement should help "facilitate the rapid acceptance of Galileo in global markets side by side with GPS".

He said the international global navigation satellite system community, including the US, will have full and transparent access to information on how to access Galileo and GPS services.