EAB Q&A: Should countries build their own GNSS constellations?

August 30, 2023  - By

“When Galileo was just an idea, its EU proponents used the argument of “political, economic, social and technological sovereignty.” Should countries such as Brazil build their own GNSS constellations?”

Headshot: Ismael Colomina

Ismael Colomina

“When, almost 20 years ago, I was in Brazil giving talks about the future of Galileo and promoting its combined use with GPS, I was often asked the logical question as the EU Galileo sovereignty arguments were known. It is not for us Europeans to answer that question for other countries or oppose their plans. However, while being aware of the defense aspects of GNSS, we may ask ourselves whether an international cooperative approach could avoid a somewhat unjustified future proliferation of GNSS constellations.”

— Ismael Colomina

Headshot: Jules McNeff

Jules McNeff

“GPS enables continuous access, free of fees and political encumbrances. A decision by any nation to bear the cost of creating a separate GNSS should be justified by realistic requirements for security or coverage that cannot be satisfied by GPS. Japan, South Korea and India are models for additional GNSS services driven by regional needs. For any new system, compatibility with other GNSS, as well as life-cycle costs, are the primary factors to consider.”

— Jules McNeff
Overlook Systems Technologies

Headshot: John Fischer

John Fischer

“When Galileo was just an idea, the U.S. military’s GPS was the only viable global constellation. GLONASS was a rusting cold-war relic and BeiDou was in an embryonic stage. The U.S. military’s official policy was that any civilian use was not guaranteed and could be interrupted anytime. Therefore, no nation outside of the United States could depend on GPS and maintain its independent interests. However, today, any country could reasonably maintain its sovereignty by ensuring interoperability with all four — betting that at least one of those constellations would always be available to them. They don’t need their own system.”

— John Fischer

F. Michael Swiek

F. Michael Swiek

Those are always nice-sounding words when trying to justify a monumentally huge expense. However, is there an actual need to justify that expense? Can the expense and burden of perpetual system operation and maintenance, along with technological innovation to keep pace with other systems and user requirements, be guaranteed over the long term? For the users, GPS can be seen as the gift that keeps on giving, whereas to the operators it is the gift that keeps on costing. So, do Brazil, or other nations, have the commercial or social need, technological foundation, economic resources and political will to initiate a new system and sustain it over the long term? Providing a GNSS constellation is not for the faint of heart or those of short-term vision.

— Michael Swiek
GPS Alliance

About the Author: Matteo Luccio

Matteo Luccio, GPS World’s Editor-in-Chief, possesses more than 20 years of experience as a writer and editor for GNSS and geospatial technology magazines. He began his career in the industry in 2000, serving as managing editor of GPS World and Galileo’s World, then as editor of Earth Observation Magazine and GIS Monitor. His technical articles have been published in more than 20 professional magazines, including Professional Surveyor Magazine, Apogeo Spatial and xyHt. Luccio holds a master’s degree in political science from MIT. He can be reached at mluccio@northcoastmedia.net or 541-543-0525.