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1/24/2006
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U.S.-European GPS Rivalry Heats Up

A U.S. official on Wednesday will unveil a next-generation GPS system that the government promises will provide more commercial features. The current GPS network has focused on military requirements, but now the Europeans are readying Galileo.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is raising the bar in its growing rivalry with Europe over global positioning technology.

A U.S. official on Wednesday (Jan. 25) will unveil a next-generation GPS system that the government is billing as providing more commercial capabilities. The current GPS network is controlled by the U.S. military, and civilian capabilities are deliberately degraded out of security concerns.

The Commerce Department said Deputy Secretary David Sampson will unveil the new system at a next-generation GPS forum hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The upgraded system will include a second civilian GPS channel "enabling significant improvements in accuracy and reliability," the department said in a statement.

Executives from General Motors, IBM, Lucent Technologies and Trimble Navigation are also scheduled to appear at the GPS forum. Also attending will be members of the U.S. GPS Industry Council along with state officials and university researchers.

The U.S. move follows recent milestones in Europe, where the European Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA) are readying its GPS entry, Galileo. On Jan. 12, ESA's Giove-A test satellite broadcast its first signals from Earth orbit. The navigation satellite was launched on Dec. 28 from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazahstan.

Giove-A, which stands for Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element, will test frequencies allocated for the Galileo constellation by the International Telecommunications Union.

ESA and the European consortium building Galileo signed a 950 million euro ($1.167 billion) contract on Jan. 19 to complete the second phase of the European GPS project. The partners have agreed to develop and construct the first four satellites in the planned 26-satellite Galileo constellation. Construction is scheduled to be completed by 2010.

The third phase will include launch of the entire Galileo network. Total cost is estimated at 3.6 billion euros ($4.42 billion).

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