News from U.K. Space Conference 2013 | Britain Now Sees Potential of PRS Signal aboard Galileo

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GLASGOW, Scotland — The British government’s skepticism about the value of the encrypted, jam-resistant signal on Europe’s future Galileo navigation satellite constellation has given way to an embrace of the signal as a future revenue source for British industry, government and industry officials said.

The Public Regulated Service (PRS) signal onboard Galileo will be available to European Union (EU) governments that provide security guarantees to specially designated Galileo program managers. Several European governments have said they plan to equip their emergency response teams and civil security forces.

Several, notably France, have said they intend to supply their militaries with PRS-equipped hardware even as they maintain their use of the future military, or M-code, signal on the U.S. GPS satellites.

The British government in the past has openly questioned PRS’s value, and even suggested that it has no place as a military component in a project that is financed and managed by civilian authorities. Some of this opposition was concerned that anyone expressing interest in PRS would be forced to pay for it. This led several European defense ministries to soft-pedal their support for it.

That has now changed as the possibilities for commercialization of PRS through sales in Britain and elsewhere in Europe — and perhaps to key NATO allies, including the United States — are coming into view.

The first four Galileo satellites have been launched and their PRS signal tested in Britain by Qinetiq of Britain and navigation-receiver manufacturer Septentrio of Belgium under contract to the 20-nation European Space Agency (ESA).

Addressing the U.K. Space Conference here July 16, British Science Minister David Willetts said the U.K. Space Agency has invested 6.5 million pounds ($9.8 million) in PRS pilot projects.

The modest investment, Willetts said, “opens the door to a [$9 billion] market in which the U.K. reasonably expects to pick up [$2.6 billion).”

The executive commission of the 27-nation European Union, which owns Galileo, has yet to determine which non-EU governments will be granted access to the PRS service. But European government officials assume that NATO allies will be given access, extending the market for PRS-based revenue for European companies involved in the signal’s development from the start.

To the extent that is the case, CGI IT UK Ltd., the former Logica before Logica’s sale to CGI of Canada in mid-2012, should be one of the beneficiaries by virtue of its involvement in PRS under contract to ESA.

In a presentation here July 17, Cock Overbeek, CGI’s vice president for space, said future PRS markets likely will include non-European Union governments and agencies including Interpol and other European security agencies; the governments of Norway, Switzerland and Canada; and the United States and other non-European NATO nations.

Overbeek said CGI views the most promising markets as security and emergency response services, and companies or agencies involved in protecting critical infrastructures.

In addition, he said, the gradual introduction of unmanned aerial vehicles into civil airspace should be a good PRS opportunity because of the anti-jam and anti-spoof features of the PRS signal.

Overbeek did not mention military services as a PRS market. He said that because the military use of PRS remains sensitive in some circles, he did not introduce it into a presentation of PRS export potential.

Overbeek said that in the past six months the CGI British division’s role in Galileo and PRS has survived a review by the EU and ESA, which questioned the company’s status after the Logica acquisition.

The European Commission in the past has denied Canadian participation in the Galileo satellites, citing security concerns. The review of CGI “recognized us as a European company,” Overbeek said, adding that the company has agreed to build “a Chinese Wall between the Canadian and European” divisions.