PARIS — The European Union (EU) and China have agreed to meet in December to try and end their dispute about overlapping radio frequencies both plan to use for their future encrypted government/military satellite navigation services, according to a joint statement from both parties.

The Joint Statement on Space Technology Cooperation, which was signed as an annex to a broader EU-China summit held Sept. 20 in Brussels, says the two sides are continuing collaboration on satellite navigation despite the signal conflict, which has been a subject of debate for at least two years.

Specifically, the 27-nation EU and China have agreed to continue the China-Europe GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) Technology Training and Cooperation Center.

The December meeting on frequencies will be conducted under what the statement calls “the ITU Framework,” ITU being the International Telecommunication Union of Geneva, a United Nations affiliate that regulates satellite orbital slots and frequencies.

An ITU official said the 193-nation organization’s mandate does not extend to resolving issues such as that between Europe’s Galileo constellation, now in development, and China’s Beidou system. The official said that while the organization is happy to provide a forum for discussions, it can do little given that Galileo and Beidou do not interfere with each other’s operations.

Instead, the frequency issue is a problem in Europe because China’s Beidou system is designed to use for its government/military service a portion of radio spectrum that overlaps the Galileo frequencies the EU wants for its Public Regulated Service, also encrypted and reserved for government and military use. In the event either the EU or China wanted to disable the other’s secure signals in a time of conflict, it would be at risk of knocking out its own service because of the shared frequencies.

The joint EU-China statement called for strengthened collaboration on Earth observation projects and on the two sides’ space exploration goals, with a jointly organized conference on space exploration scheduled for the end of 2013.



China and Europe Taking Their Navigation Dispute to ITU

Peter B. de Selding was the Paris Bureau Chief for SpaceNews.