That Updated Galileo ICD is Great and All, But …

ION 2008 News Coverage:
Jeff Chappell Blogs

GPS WorldThe GNSS industry wants to know what’s going on with Galileo, namely its Open Service Signal In Space Interface Control Document (OS SIS ICD), its future specifications, and so forth; it’s chomping at the bit, so to speak, to start designing equipment for it and making some oats off of it. But it’s getting a little skittish, worried that Europe is dragging its feet and that in the end, the ICD might not be so O, as in open and open for business.

Europe, on the other hand, suggests that it hold those horses for a bit, because it’s taking things one step at a time. After all, it’s got a lot of sticky politics to wade through still, and besides, Galileo is evolving in a different manner than GPS did.

That’s the panel discussion titled GNSS Market Access Issues that came at the end of this morning’s CGSIC meeting, all conveniently wrapped up in a Georgia pecan nutshell. While there was some brief discussion in the question and answer session afterward regarding China’s Beidou/Compass, it might as well have been titled “Debate Galileo’s ICD.”

As Mike Swiek, GPS Industry Council executive director, pointed out – rather tactfully, if directly, I might add – the industry at large has some questions about lingering issues, issues that could potentially be hurdles to future Galileo product development. Namely, is Galileo going to be fully open for commercial use and development? Are there going to be licensing fees involved? Is Europe going to play favorites?

Swiek suggested that the industry understands that Galileo is in its infancy, and as such is still evolving. But with lingering doubts and questions over these issues, it begins to factor into the cost of development, he said; it could potentially affect Galileo’s adoption in future product designs. “We hope we can get answers so the business of Galileo can proceed,” he concluded.

John Pottle, marketing director for Spirent’s Positioning Technology division, echoed the concerns Swiek voiced. “Our customers are looking for the certainty that Mike mentioned to go ahead with Galileo,” he said.

So what about all that, Europe? Huh?

As Paul Verhoef pointed out, he’s a good sport to knowingly walk into this set up. “Ambush,” I believe was the word he used, actually. Verhoef is the head of the Galileo unit for the European Commission and the joint GPS/Galileo Working Group B co-chair.

He noted that while Galileo is compatible with GPS, and to some extent interoperable, they are two different systems, and Galileo is evolving in a very different way from that of GPS. No small factor in Galileo’s evolution is that all of the sovereign nations that make up the European Union have a stake in it, to one degree or another, particularly now that it is being funded by EU taxpayers. The politics

Verhoef also said that Galileo can’t entertain any development strategy at this point that would hasten its development that would close the door on all possibility of generating revenue stream for its operators in Europe – one of thos hurdles – perhaps the biggest one – as Swiek delicately put it. Verhoef also went on the offensive a bit, asking, albeit rhetorically, if there had never been any favoritism shown to U.S. industry in the development of GPS? Or if there were any non U.S.-based participants in the development of GPS Block III?

I’m guessing no, since no one chimed in to answer this, or otherwise correct the implication.

“There’s quite a number of issues here,” Verhoef said, adding that Europe is willing to listen and discuss the myriad issues. But the GNSS might not want to hold its breath. “We’re doing it step by step, at the moment,” he concluded.

So I’ll conclude with my two cents, which, given the state of the U.S. economy, is probably worth about $0.002, actually. Can you blame Europe for wanting to hold onto the possibility of turning a buck – er, euro – from Galileo? Granted it may not be even be remotely realistic in the long run, but can you really hold it against them? Think about how GPS proponents have had to fight tooth and nail in the past to get and keep funding from Congress. It is rocket science, and rocket science is expensive, after all.

Editor’s Note: As explained at length elsewhere on this site, this is a news story/blog entry written by me that originally appeared on GPS World. GPS World and parent Questex Media hold all of the rights. You can still see a copy of this story at GPS World.

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