Row over GPS jamming still divides US and Europe

2019-03-03 04:08:10

By Will Knight Talks to resolve a dispute between the European Union and the US over how the EU’s new satellite navigation system Galileo will provide its signal have ended without agreement in Washington. Galileo is scheduled to start operating in 2007 and the EU would like the standard, publicly available signal to use a modulation known as Binary Offset Carrier (BOC) 1.5, 1.5. But US officials argue that this would interfere with its use of an encrypted military signal from its satellite network, the Global Positioning System (GPS). This signal, known as the M-code, is planned for deployment in 2012. During a military conflict, the US would try to jam all public satellite signals so that its enemy could not use satellite positioning. But jamming Galileo’s signal would also disrupt the M-code, the US says. An alternative modulation, called BOC 1.1, has been suggested for Galileo by the US. But this would provide a slightly less accurate signal, prompting some observers to suggest that the US is trying to degrade Galileo for commercial reasons. However, Richard Langley a satellite communications expert at the University of New Brunswick, Canada, thinks the US has a legitimate reason to be concerned. “I don’t think there is a hidden agenda,” he told New Scientist. If Europe does use BOC 1.5, 1.5, he says, “it would be difficult for the US to jam it without interfering with the M-code, because there would be too much spectrum overlap”. Another meeting between the EU and US will be held later in February when officials will try to resolve the outstanding issues. Whichever modulation is finally chosen Galileo should provide a more precise service than GPS as it exists now. But Langley notes that the US is working on an upgraded version of GPS, known as GPS3, to provide comparable accuracy. Europe has argued it needs a satellite positioning system that is independent from GPS, to ensure a sound footing for development of commercial capabilities. Nonetheless, EU and US officials have agreed to make the Galileo and GPS interoperable and Galileo will also provide an encrypted signal for use by European military forces. The first Galileo satellite is scheduled to launch late in 2004, and will be followed by 29 others. They will orbit in three circular orbits at an altitude of 23,