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European GPS rival is 'folly' says MP

A government committee has called for the UK to suspend all involvement in the project until a full review has been completed
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

A committee of MPs has called for a full review of the UK's involvement in the European Galileo satellite-network project.

In a statement released on Monday, Gwyneth Dunwoody, MP for Crewe and Nantwich and chairperson of the Transport Sub-Committee, said that to pursue the project would be "folly".

Dunwoody claimed that the UK should suspend its involvement in the project until the review has been completed. "The government must stop this folly," said Dunwoody.

The cost of Galileo was planned to be €3bn (£2.1bn) but the Transport Sub-Committee believes that this could spiral to €14.2bn.

The European Commission "is poised to spend billions in taxpayers' money on a satellite system, without any realistic assessment of its costs and benefits", Dunwoody said. "We must have independent and up-to-date evidence that proceeding with Galileo is worthwhile."

The project for a network of 30 satellites, to act as a replacement or a supplement to the US's own GPS satellite network, has already slipped from a planned completion date of 2008 to 2013 and could be delayed longer and go millions over budget. The UK is one of a number of European countries that make up the Galileo consortium.

But Septentrio, a satellite-navigation company based in Ghent, Belgium, is promoting the technology as a supplement to the US GPS system. As Septentrio's chief executive and founder, Peter Grognard, pointed out at a meeting with the press last week: "GPS alone gives access to signals from four or five satellites, and Galileo possibly seven, but, with both signals available, you can access up to 12." This makes the signal much more reliable, he said.

The solution offered by Septentrio is to create a processor that integrates with GPS and Galileo for use in navigation systems such as those used in cars and other vehicles.

Along with others in the satellite community, Grognard had been lobbying Dunwoody and other UK MPs in the Transport Sub-Committee. He said that Dunwoody had "listened" to what he had to say, but would not elaborate upon that.

The issue now for the European satellite community is: if the UK stalls its involvement in Galileo, that may, combined with indifference from countries like Germany, kill the project all together.

Grognard believes that, whatever the reservations of the committee of MPs, Galileo comes at a modest price. "We are talking about €1.5 for each European citizen for the next four years and that represents very good value for money," Grognard said.


Two of Septentrio's processors that integrate with GPS and Galileo for use in navigation systems
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