NSW seeking approval to put GPS repeaters in Sydney tunnels

Current Australian laws ban the retransmission of satellite signals used in navigation.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Transport for New South Wales is looking for permission to install GPS repeaters in the tunnels under Sydney to test the impact it would have on emergency services, as well as GPS units and smartphones.

The one obstacle in the way of such a test is the retransmission of a radionavigation-satellite service, which is currently forbidden by the Radiocommunications Act 1992 since it could interfere with signals.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority is currently conducting a review of the ban, and in particular, is looking into GPS repeaters in tunnels, as well as allowing police to "deal with drone security and safety threats".

"As many motorists know, GPS signals don't work in road tunnels because they lose the line of sight to satellites. Some vehicles use other technology but GPS is the most accurate and is used by emergency services," Transport for NSW deputy secretary for greater Sydney Elizabeth Mildwater said.

"The freight industry -- one of the primary users of tunnels -- also uses GPS to actively provide information on tracking and on-board communication. With the delivery of major tunnel projects across Sydney like WestConnex, NorthConnex, M6 Stage 1, Western Harbour Tunnel, and Beaches Link, it's important we act as soon as possible."

Fire and Rescue NSW deputy commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell said allowing the repeating of GPS signals could allow for quicker response times.

"With multiple entry and exit points to our tunnels it can be difficult to find the exact location of an incident. GPS data would mean our crews could instantly pinpoint these locations and reduce our response times," Fewtrell said.

At the end of last year, Transurban claimed it had ended GPS dropouts in tunnels in Brisbane, but rather than using repeaters, it used Bluetooth beacons.

"To access improved navigation motorists simply need to turn on their Bluetooth and use the Waze or Google Maps app when travelling through a tunnel," Transurban said.

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