• United States

U.S. Europe ready to sign satellite accord

Jun 25, 20042 mins
Network Security

The European Union is set to sign an agreement with the U.S. on Saturday that could make the sky the limit on satellite technology, allowing Europe to push ahead with its Galileo satellite program.

The agreement will set out technical standards to be used by Galileo and the U.S.’ GPS, a representative for EU Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio said Friday. The deal is due to be signed at the EU-U.S. Summit taking place in Ireland Saturday.

The EU has been seeking an agreement with the U.S. since 1999 that will allow it to develop an independent satellite system for commercial purposes that can coexist with GPS, which is partly used for military purposes. Both Galileo and GPS are designed to determine a user’s exact location using satellite signals.

The U.S. Department of Defense-run GPS system gives priority to military needs, however, and Europe wants to establish a commercial system that will deliver reliable service for civilian applications like vehicle navigation, fleet management and emergency systems.

The EU has said that Galileo will allow Europe to run an independent system that does not rely on the U.S., which could deny access to civilian GPS users at any time. Galileo will be interoperable with GPS and the Russian GLONASS System, which is also for military purposes, the EU said.

Europe has set its sights on a network of 30 satellites, due to begin operating in 2008. The EU and the European Space Agency earmarked €1.1 billion ($1.3 billion) for the initial phase of the project, from 2002 to 2005, and the European Commission will offer additional investments in the deployment stage to supplement private funding.

Three consortia have been short-listed to operate the network – one led by Eutelsat, another led by EADS Space and a third that counts on Finmeccanica and Alcatel. The winning bidder is set to fund two-thirds of the €2.2 billion development project.

The EU predicts a booming market for satellite navigation, saying that it will be worth €300 billion in worldwide hardware and services by 2020. It hopes that at least 98% of all receivers will have combined Galileo-GPS functionality by that time.