L5-first for improved resilience in mass market GNSS

April 11, 2024  - By

Current state of the art multi-frequency GNSS receivers operate by receiving L1 first and then L5. L5-first is a viable answer to the call for more resilience in GNSS as is being discussed in government and technical circles to protect vital national infrastructure. It is suggested as part of “Toughening Category 4: Signal Alternatives” to protect, toughen and augment (PTA) the current GNSS systems described by Brad Parkinson’s article in the March 2022 issue of GPS World.

Paul McBurney

Paul McBurney

The need arises from attacks directed by bad actors on a large scale, such as electronic warfare, and on a more humane scale, by bad actors such as self-jammers and spoofers. On top of that, normal interference can cause desensitization and denial of service on GNSS receivers from myriad terrestrial and satellite communications.

The PTA plan presents the Denial Radius Reduction Ratio (DRRR) figure of merit and shows that a J/S increase of 15 dB produces a DRRR of 0.18. Whereas a receiver without this additional 15 dB of J/S could be denied fixing out to 1 km from a given transmitter, a receiver with an additional 15 dB J/S would be denied out to only 180 m from the same transmitter.

The improvement in terms of area is proportional to radius squared. The article identifies that the J/S capability is different among GNSS signals and the best performance is obtained with L5, mainly because it has the highest chipping rate. L1C has a code length of 10,230 chips, the same as L5, but it is spread over 10 msec and has the same chipping rate as L1 C/A.

There are currently 72 L5 signals between GPS, Galileo, BeiDou and QZSS transmitting the same physical layer features of 10.23 MHz chipping rate, 1 kHz overlay codes and higher transmit power compared to nearly all L1 signals with a 1.023 MHz chipping rate and lower transmit power. The combination of these features at L5 is close to achieving this 15 dB performance level over L1.

Unlike current hybrid receivers, L5-first survives L1 jamming. (Photo: Carkhe / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images)

Unlike current hybrid receivers, L5-first survives L1 jamming. (Photo: Carkhe / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images)

One might conclude that the current start of the art of a receiver with both frequencies (aka, a hybrid L1+L5) has this resilience. However, the market does not currently offer the ability to directly acquire L5 signals overall use cases of GNSS assistance without first acquiring signals at L1. This means they can only achieve this resilience when the interference is encountered after acquiring and fixing at L1. As soon as the L1 is lost and the position and time uncertainty grow beyond the receiver’s capacity to autonomously search for L5 signals, the receiver is denied service at the interference level tolerable at L1. If you cut the receiver into L1 and L5 pieces, only the L1 side is capable of fixing autonomously. As noted by Dennis Akos et al. (“Testing COTS GNSS Receivers Using Only a Subset of Supported Signals,” ION JNC 2023), “support for several signals/frequencies provides integrity and robustness.” Specifically, “under jamming scenarios, signal diversity can allow a receiver to still generate an accurate position solution.”

Current receivers are not able to acquire L5 for reasons related to history, cost and power consumption. Historically, the promise of L5 accuracy was so attractive that it was added to legacy chipsets based on L1 even when it was only partially deployed. It was impractical at that time to require L5 acquisition when there were fewer L5 satellites than at L1. Cost and power are related to the fact that L1 receivers’ acquisition methods are sized to acquire the L1, E1, B1 and G1 signals. Memory and compute capacities, including the digital clock speed, are sized for slower chipping rates and hence shorter code lengths. At this performance level, conventional time domain correlation is adequate. Some receivers deploy frequency domain methods at L1 and achieve a lower cost and power than time domain methods with similar capacity. However, the L5 acquisition complexity with time domain correlation is 100 times more than L1 as its complexity increases with N2, meaning the cost and power to acquire L5 is out of reach. While using a time domain acquisition engine to acquire L5 may be possible for strong signals when the code and frequency search space is constrained for those signals, directly acquiring L5 with conventional methods would have serious shortcomings in many use cases.

Interestingly, the signal designers across all GNSS systems have cleverly designed the L5 signals so they can be easily acquired after acquiring their counterparts on L1. The L5 primary and secondary code is predictable based on learning the L1 primary code and navigation data bit phase. E5a and B2a primary and secondary codes can be predicted by learning the well-designed E1/B1 primary and secondary code phases that have the same total period: the combination of the 4 msec code lengths synchronous with 25 bits of secondary code are in phase with the E5a 100 msec overlay code. After an L1 fix with fine time, L5 can similarly be directly acquired easily with limited searching.

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About the Author: Paul McBurney

Paul Mcburney is the co-founder and CTO of oneNav. He began his focus on GNSS while earning his Ph.D. and has since been developing location technology and systems at Stanford Telecom, Trimble, and eRide. He was a GNSS architect at Apple. He holds a BS in engineering and physics from St. Ambrose University and a Ph.D. in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Iowa State University. McBurney has more than 40 location-related patents.