Your behavior appears to be a little unusual. Please verify that you are not a bot.

First Fix: New year, new opportunities for GNSS industry

January 7, 2021  - By
Headshot: J. David Grossman

J. David Grossman

By J. David Grossman
Executive Director
GPS Innovation Alliance

As we embark on a new year, 2021 ushers in a new administration and the start of the 117th Congress. With these changes comes a litany of opportunities, as well as challenges, for the nearly four-decade-old GPS industry.

Next month, the GPS Innovation Alliance (GPSIA) will mark its eighth anniversary as the voice of the GPS industry, educating policymakers and regulators about the GPS success story of innovation, economic growth and job creation. It is a uniquely American story made possible because of bipartisan support for protecting the spectrum used by GPS and maintaining funding to enable the modernization of the GPS constellation, ground control and military ground user equipment.

Congressional Support. This commitment was evident in the last Congress through broad support from both parties for two Congressional resolutions, H.Res.219 and S.Res.216, that affirmed the importance of continuous availability, accuracy, efficiency, robustness, reliability and resiliency of the GPS constellation.

Innovation and modernization of the GPS constellation are well underway. Last year, under the emerging leadership of the U.S. Space Force, two new Lockheed Martin-built GPS III satellites were launched into space. This new generation of GPS satellites offers three times greater accuracy, up to eight times improved anti-jamming capability for military users, and the addition of the L1C signal to enable interoperability with other navigation systems, such as Europe’s Galileo.

GPS modernization also has led to the introduction of M-code, an advanced, new signal designed to improve anti-jamming and anti-spoofing, as well as to increase secure access to military GPS signals for U.S. and allied armed forces. In GPS-denied environments, M-code reduces the jamming radius, giving military planners and targeteers options to minimize or avoid collateral strike damage.

With at least two additional GPS III satellites set to launch this year and a new ground control segment known as the Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX), the continued success of the GPS program remains bright.

Ligado Still Looms

As GPSIA continues to urge Congress to allocate the funding needed to support the modernization of GPS, we also are fighting to ensure uninterrupted operation of the estimated 900 million GPS devices in the United States ranging from precision agriculture to consumer gadgets.

Last year, we were deeply disappointed by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision approving the applications of Ligado Networks, despite the well-documented objections of the expert agencies charged with preserving the integrity of GPS, specifically, on the critical issue of what constitutes harmful interference to users of GNSS.

Regrettably, the FCC chose to ignore the established “1-dB Standard,” which has a long history of protecting GPS operations from harmful interference in both international and domestic regulatory proceedings.

“All Americans benefit from a competitive 5G landscape.”

At the same time, Ligado and its supporters continue to argue that their proposal is the fastest way to bring 5G to all Americans. In actuality, millions of Americans already have access to 5G services and, thanks to the efforts of the FCC, hundreds of megahertz of 5G spectrum in low-, mid- and high-band frequencies have been or will soon be made available for commercial use. GPSIA believes all Americans benefit from a competitive 5G landscape.

5G without compromise. However, that goal can be achieved without undermining GPS receivers and devices that are foundational to wireless technology in general, including 5G. We remain hopeful that a new administration and congress will commit to protecting GPS receivers from harmful interference using the appropriate standard for determining such interference to ensure that the more than $1 billion per day in U.S. economic impact created by GPS continues to flourish.

2020 also brought the issue of GPS resiliency into the national forefront. In February, the president signed an Executive Order aimed at fostering greater resiliency for positioning, navigation and timing (PNT)-based systems, including GPS.

GPSIA supported this order and outlined in subsequent regulatory filings why GPS remains the gold standard for delivering PNT functions to our military as well as a wide range of other sectors, including transportation, agriculture, electricity and finance.

Complementing GPS. As the federal government considers alternative PNT solutions, it is critical that they be complementary to GPS, able to easily integrate into current or future devices, and based on a recognition that each PNT application has unique requirements driven by its intended function, environment and design factors. In sum, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Protecting Consumer Privacy. Looking ahead, GPSIA expects 2021 will bring a robust discussion around consumer privacy protections. While GPS satellite broadcasts are one-directional and cannot track a user’s location, we recognize that GPS is one of many data points that can contribute to application-specific location tracking. As such, GPSIA would urge Congress to ensure that geolocation data is appropriately addressed as part of any U.S. federal privacy legislation. In doing so, we believe protections for precise geolocation information will empower consumer choice, enhance transparency, and strengthen security.

On the surface, infrastructure modernization, protecting GPS spectrum, PNT resiliency, and consumer privacy may seem like distinctly different issues. What they have in common, though, is an ability to garner bipartisan support, deliver substantial consumer benefits, and strengthen our nation’s economy. GPSIA stands ready as a resource and looks forward to working with the Biden-Harris Administration and leaders in the House and Senate to promote, protect and enhance GPS.