China’s GPS Alternative Goes Public Across Asia-Pacific

China’s Beidou satellite navigation system is now open to commercial use across the Asia-Pacific region one year after its civilian debut within China, offering an alternative or addition to the American-run Global Positioning System. From the BBC:

A spokesman said that Beidou is targeting a 70-80% share of the Chinese market in related location services by 2020.

The China Satellite Navigation Office added that by that time it also intended the service to be available across the globe.

[…] Six satellites are already in orbit, but officials said they planned to add a further 40 to the system over the next decade, according to a report by China Daily.

Organisers have estimated that the market for transport, weather, and telecom spin-off services from Beidou’s signals could be worth 200bn yuan ($32bn; £20bn) by 2015.

However, it is widely thought another motivation for the project is China’s desire not to be reliant on a foreign-operated system that could be turned off at a time of conflict.

The South China Morning Post’s Minnie Chan described Beidou’s international launch as a milestone in China’s campaign to establish an independent navigation system.

Expanding into the Asia-Pacific region – from Afghanistan to the Western Pacific and Mongolia to northern Australia – puts the system on track to claim 15 to 20 per cent of the GPS-dominated domestic market by 2015, said Ran Chengqi , a BDS spokesman and director of the China Satellite Navigation Office.

[…] An early version has been used by traffic control systems in more than 100,000 vehicles in nine provinces and cities.

[…] The central government has spent billions on the system and in the coming decade plans to invest over 40 billion yuan (HK$49 billion) more, Ran said.

[…] An estimated 95 per cent of global-positioning equipment on the mainland still relies on GPS data, Xinhua said.

Global Times described the system as the future “cornerstone of China’s participation in the international advanced technology industry”, and urged its widespread adoption and support:

We […] appeal to Chinese consumers to firmly support BeiDou and be users of this system. BeiDou can represent China’s advanced technology; it has improved the quality of China’s modernization process. Support for Beidou can build the Chinese people’s collective competitiveness.

[…] Some problems may be found in its operation because BeiDou is a new system. Chinese consumers should remain clear-headed regarding our country’s long-term interests, and show tolerance toward the BeiDou system. In the final analysis, the strength of Beidou cannot be separated from broad participation from Chinese society. Besides market users, such participation should also include people supporting our country’s scientific and technological progress.

For China, which has developed later than many other countries, progress means challenging advanced global forces. The success of State-level projects depends on the determination and will of all of society. China’s ability to compete with developed countries in terms of advanced technology is growing. BeiDou is one of China’s players in this competition. All Chinese consumers should applaud it. The whole country backs the development of BeiDou.

‘Beidou’ 北斗 comes from the Chinese name for the Big Dipper or Plough constellation.


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