China’s GPS challenger, Beidou, to be completed by 2020

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Satellite GPS Planet Navigation
(Image credit: Wikipedia/ Thegreenj)

China’s version of the Global Positioning System (GPS), called Beidou, will be completed by the end of the year, according to its website, as the country works to close the technological gap with the US and improve its domestic technology capabilities.

Why it matters: Beidou is China’s attempt to compete with US leadership in the navigation services market, as well as a strategic attempt to minimize China’s reliance on US technology in case of disputes.

  • China is promoting the system to countries that participate in its Belt and Road Initiative.

Details: The news was first announced by the Chinese delegation at the United Nations International Committee on Global Satellite Navigation Systems in Bangalore on Dec. 8. China’s effort for a homegrown version of GPS started in 2000 and comprises three satellite networks. Beidou-3 is the first to provide global navigation services and the latest to be rolled out.

  • The final satellite launches and the core constellation system for the network will be completed by 2020, and the system will be ready for global rollout.
  • A total of 35 satellites positioned at different orbits will form Beidou-3, team members said in April.

Context: Beidou is operated by China’s National Space Administration. The first satellite for the Beidou-3 program was launched on March 15, 2015 and geolocation services from Beidou-3 became available to the Asia-Pacific region in December 2018, ahead of the originally planned date in 2020.

  • The first two iterations of the geolocation system, Beidou-1 only provided location services in China and Beidou-2 in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • The global market for navigation services reached $39.7 billion in 2017, according to US market research firm Grand View Research.