His Coordinates

“Galileo is the only system which is driven by civil interests”

Nov 2010 | No Comment

says Paul Verhoef Programme Manager, EU satellite navigation programme, European
Commission, Brussels, Belgium while emphasising on the difference between Galileo and
other GNSS systems

What is the status update on Galileo and in what stages will it become operational?

We are currently defining our initial operational capability (IOC) in detail.

Initially some services will be available which will not be the full services. For example if the availability is 95 percent it will mean that for three weeks in the year one would not be able to receive anything. However, some services can be combined with GPS and as soon as the first satellite is up one will be able to use the ranging capabilities of both the GPS and the Galileo satellites in sight, in particular for the OS (Open Service). There will be ramping up of all the services with time. We will have an initial PRS (Public Regulated Service) available for testing purposes. The SAR (Search and Rescue) Service will be available relatively quickly.

But the Safety-of-Life Service will not be available initially. We may have some elements of it for testing since that service is particularly complicated and we would like to have some test results first. Also, the CS (Commercial Service) will need the entire constellation and therefore will only be tested at IOC stage.

What would be a realistic timeline for the start of initial operations of Galileo?

There can be no illusions. If we look at the GPS and GLONASS history, we see that between the launching of the first satellite and the declaration of full operations there was a period of about eighteen years. We have respect for what the US has achieved with GPS and the experience they have.

I hope we will be able to do it in a much shorter time. If we start launching next year the ramping up should happen in the years 2012-13-14. These systems are very complex and it is not just a matter of sending up the satellites. At the system level the satellites and ground infrastructure together have to deliver a stable service. So a stable IOC will not be achieved before 2014.

What is the significance of the success of EGNOS on the Galileo program?

In systems like this there is always an element of credibility. The political discussions in Europe have proven to be particularly difficult and for a long time there was uncertainty about whether we are going to be able to do this. EGNOS has been important to prove that it is feasible to do GNSS developments in Europe. Now that we have major portions of Galileo under contract, we hope to raise our credibility quickly.

What kind of market do you see for EGNOS in the non-aviation segment?

Today in Europe the biggest market with an enormous growth rate is agriculture. The farmers are keen on precision agriculture as it saves them both time and money. We are working with a number of tractor manufacturers to promote EGNOS and the take off is just phenomenal. Other interests are in the LBS market, the mobile phone market, the road transport market and the maritime market.

Is there going to be any overlap of Galileo and EGNOS?

EGNOS is there for the long-term and will continue to exist after Galileo has become operational. EGNOS could potentially be integrated into Galileo, depending on the final definition of the Galileo Safety-of-Life Service. So it is too early to tell. Also it will take a while to set the full Galileo system up and to ensure that it is technically stable and functioning.

Over the last few years there have been technological developments on Safety-of-Life which we now need to take into account. Earlier we had defined our Safety-of-Life service based on the PPP (Public Private Partnership) approach which we have now changed. We are also talking to the US to jointly provide interoperable Safety-of-Life Services in the future.

What do you think is the scope of co-operation with India on this program?

In principle the cooperation with India should be very broad on all avenues of these systems – applications, standards and frequencies – to make sure that Indian efforts on GAGAN are coordinated properly with us.

In the past when we were considering the PPP mode the question was whether India would participate on the system itself. Since 2007 we have decided the PPP would not work and it would be the Public Sector which would take over the direct responsibility for the system.

Our industry can procure elements of the system, components or sub-systems from outside Europe and there we strictly follow the WTO agreements and our commitment therein. We have joint procurement agreements with countries like US and Canada, though I do not recall whether India is in the Governmental Procurement Agreement (GPA).

Also, over the years it has been realized that this is a critical piece of infrastructure with a number of security measures on it and therefore needs to be properly protected. This has made it difficult for us to cooperate with other countries on the infrastructure element.

However, we are working very constructively and cooperatively with India on frequencies, coordination, signals and are in contact with ISRO on a number of things. We would like to revitalize the relationship with India, only now the focus would be on downstream work like applications and services. We share a good relationship which has evolved taking into account the realities that have happened both here and in India.

What are the lessons that India can learn from the EGNOS experience?

We have come to realize that an enormous effort is put into such a system. Also, these systems are expensive. I do not know what India has spent on GAGAN, we have spent around 600-700 million euros on EGNOS, so one cannot just have the system sitting there. One has to promote it and engage the various segments on how it is going to be used.

Since it is new technology the uptake is not always obvious. One has to talk to the technology leaders in the market who have the influence to promote the technology. We have a number of teams working with the various segments. For example the use of this technology at the airports – if the procedures are not implemented at the airports, nobody is willing to equip their receivers; but the airports are not willing to put the procedures in place if there are no receivers. One needs to break through this.

Every market has its own dynamics and one needs to understand that. India is a very diverse and large market with a lot of potential and it will require a lot of effort.

Do you think GAGAN is going to be different from EGNOS?

We are all jointly following the same ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) standards. There are some challenges though since we have realized that the standards are not always precisely followed. Last year we had an incident with EGNOS where some receivers did not react in accordance with the standards.

If everyone faithfully implements these standards then basically the systems all achieve the same thing though they may achieve it in different ways.

In an ideal world it would mean for example that an aircraft that flies from India via Europe to the US would use GAGAN, EGNOS and WAAS. We all have a joint interest to see that this works, and therefore as these systems go into the rest of the world it becomes critical that everybody follows the standards.

If GAGAN, EGNOS, and WAAS follow uniform standards would interoperability follow automatically?

The uniform standards of ICAO in theory mean that any equipment which is made for WAAS should be able to work with EGNOS and GAGAN. The reality is that one needs to verify that this is indeed the case and that the implementation of the standards in the systems and equipment is precise.

We have discovered that we have taken a particular interpretation of the standard in the implementation of the system while WAAS has done it differently. Then the question is whether both these interpretations were possible or was the standard badly written. This is an important issue because finally this will be crucial in the functioning of the equipment with the three or four systems which are eventually going to be there.

What are the some of the problems Galileo has faced with respect to the frequencies and signals vis-à-vis other systems?

There have been two issues related to the frequencies and signals with all the systems. One is whether there is interference between the systems and a pure ITU (International Telecommunications Union) frequency interference analysis can determine that. We have not had a problem with that.

The second issue is more complicated and is related to the security requirements which go with the signals. The national security agencies would like to have the means to stop the signals if they are potentially used for terrorist or related activities without causing problems to their own governmental services. In case of the US this would be their military service. We have got a detailed agreement with the US whereby we jointly protect the PRS signals and the encoded military signals on GPS. On this aspect we have a problem with China.

There are certain requirements that need to be fulfilled which China has chosen not to adhere to and this has shown to be a very complex discussion. The situation with China is unfortunate because we have had similar discussions with the US, Russia, India and Japan and have found solutions.

What efforts do you think need to be put in to resolve the frequency issue?

The resolution of frequency matters is an issue that you see with all the satellite and terrestrial systems that use them, also in satellite navigation. All the providers have an interest in providing new frequencies, signals, designs, plans and constellations. Therefore it has to be a continuous discussion between us to make sure that all of this works. We all have a joint interest in facilitating each other and ensuring that each has a robust service.

What we would like to do with China is come to a point where they understand that it is in our joint interest to find a solution to this compatibility issue. And, if possible, move further to a certain level of interoperability because that is what will benefit the users. If there is interoperability between the systems the users can use all the systems and draw the maximum benefit from them.

Towards this we have an agreement with the US in case of our open service with the GPS civil signal – both are now coordinated and made interoperable. As a result in the future there will be single chipsets which will be able to receive both the constellations. The availability of positioning services for the user will increase with more interoperable satellites in sight.

COMPASS started after Galileo but its pace is much faster, what impact does this have on Galileo?

China does seem to have been quicker probably because their system has been developed within their military structure. This is possibly somewhat easier than the political environment we have.

China also seems to have the ambition and the political interest to do it quickly. However if we look at it from the quality perspective there are serious doubts that they are going to have a reliable system with a given number of operational satellites in a reasonable time frame. Quality has been a problem for the industry in China and we have seen that some of their recently launched satellites have had troubles. There are no doubts about China’s funding abilities and ambitions but technical performance remains a challenge for them.

This is a small but high profile industry therefore we all have an interest in maintaining good quality of the systems. If one or more systems fail it will bring uncertainty to the entire industry. Therefore we all need to help each other and deliver what we say we can.

Do you think eventually the focus will shift from having more systems and satellites to improving the ones that are already there?

There are a number of elements involved here. In the US, Russia and China these systems are primary driven by military interests. Galileo is the only system which is driven by civil interests. Therefore for most nations some autonomy is for strategic applications and thus the pressure to have independent systems will remain.

If there are five systems and consequently a hundred fifty satellites around the world it might give the illusion that we are over supplied. However for military purposes each nation would use only its own system. For civil use it would be different but the question is how much we can de-correlate civil and military use.

It is still early to say what we can all do together on the civil side. We have made some headway with the US and are trying to see whether we can make our interoperability steps with the others as well. Therefore it is not only a matter of looking at the civil side of things there is a layer of politics involved.

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