Consortia Join Forces To Bid For European GPS Network

Two consortia bidding to build Europe's $4 billion Galileo satellite navigation system have joined forces on the project after the selection organization failed to choose between them.
LONDON — The two consortia bidding to build Europe's Euro 3.2 billion ($3.9 billion) Galileo satellite navigation system have joined forces on a joint bid after the organization set up by the European Commission and the continent's space agency failed to choose between them.

The decision brings to a head a long running saga after the Galileo Joint Undertaking (GJU) body said it could not separate the two bidders and urged them to pool their offers.

The two bidders are iNavSat, created by Thales of France, the Franco-German defence group EADS and Inmarsat; and the Eurely consortium spearheaded by Alcatel of France and Finmeccanica of Italy, along with Aena and Hispasat of Spain.

The companies said in a joint statement that by combining their efforts they would "significantly reduce the contributions of European taxpayers". However, they did not outline how they would share control of the project, nor whether the long-time favorite to be lead contractor, EADS, would be chosen to play that role.

The general counsellor for the GJU, Hans Peter Marchlewski, said the individual bids are still on the table, but that the combined proposal represents a way through the impasse. The joint bid is to be scrutinized over the next few weeks.

"It [the joint proposal] has to show that this is better value for the public than the existing two proposals and that such better value can only be reached is there is such a joint proposal. Without our agreement, they cannot merge," said Marchlewski.

The European Union (EU) is hoping Galileo will not only provide an alternative to the Pentagon-controlled GPS network but also tap into growing demand for satellite communications services.

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