European Union Approves Military Access to Encrypted Galileo Signal

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  Space News Business

European Union Approves Military Access to Encrypted Galileo Signal

By PETER B. de SELDING
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 10 January 2005
02:38 pm ET


PARIS — British protests notwithstanding, the military forces of France and other European Union nations will be able to use Europe’s future encrypted satellite navigation signals as they see fit, European government officials said.

These officials also said that any attempt to export the encrypted signals from the Galileo navigation system outside Europe would need to be approved unanimously by the 25 European Union member nations.

European Union officials repeated that the most heavily encrypted Galileo signals, carried as part of the system’s Public Regulated Service (PRS), will be limited to European Union member nations.

China and India both have sought access to the PRS signals as part of their participation in the Galileo project. Both have been rebuffed, as would any other non-European nation.

One European Union Commission official said the controls on the export of PRS were firm. “We don’t intend to give access to PRS to anyone outside of Europe, and we have not done it so far,” this official said here Dec. 14 during a debate on Galileo and its U.S. equivalent, the GPS system, organized by the French International Relations Institute.

Asked whether European Union governments would grant U.S. homeland security or other agencies’ access to PRS, this official said the issue has yet to be raised as part of the continuing U.S.-European dialogue on the coexistence of Galileo and GPS.

The ground rules for the French International Relations Institute meeting prohibited identifying the attendees by name or organization.

British government officials had said publicly that they would seek to limit Galileo PRS use in Europe to ambulances, police forces and other non-military forces, and would block other European nations’ attempts to integrate Galileo into their future armaments systems alongside the future GPS military code.

That attempt was blocked by European Union transport ministers Dec. 10 during a meeting of the European Union Transport Council in Brussels. The ministers, in a written declaration, said only that Galileo is “a civil program under civil control” and that this principle cannot be changed without agreement of all nations.

“We found it interesting that the British government was interested in limiting our use of PRS for our own troops,” one French government official said. “We did not ask for their opinion, nor will we be bound by it.”

U.S. and European officials agreed that details about the Galileo-GPS relationship remain to be settled despite the July 2004 U.S.-European agreement on interoperability of the two systems.

Questions also remain on the industrial side.

U.S. and European companies have expressed interest in establishing trans-Atlantic alliances for Galileo and GPS-3 contract work. Both systems are scheduled to be operational sometime between 2011 and 2015.

But how much technology transfer will be allowed by the sponsoring governments is an issue that could cut short proposed teaming arrangements.

European officials said U.S. technology-transfer rules applying to satellites in general and GPS in particular may make it impossible for them to win GPS-3 business. But one U.S. official said the same restrictions are showing up in Europe, where U.S. companies have been denied access to basic Galileo data because of firewalls erected by European governments.

A Galileo system operator is expected to be selected in February to manage the system on a profit-making basis. Both consortia have said selling PRS services, military and homeland-security related, will account for about 20 percent of total anticipated revenues.

PRS is one of five services to be offered by Galileo and one of three — the other two are the Commercial and Safety of Life signals — to be sold to users. The Open Service and the Search and Rescue Service will be distributed free of charge, worldwide.

Commercial air, rail, sea and highway transport are viewed as prime markets for Galileo, but officials from European air-transport authorities said they should not be counted on to pay for Galileo access, at least not yet.

“We fully intend to perform a cost-benefit analysis of the Safety of Life service, and this analysis will have to demonstrate the benefits of the proposed service before we agree to pay for it,” said one air-transport regulator. “We have asked repeatedly for an idea of how much the service will cost, and up to now we have received no answer.”

Commercial air passengers pay for the current ground-based air-navigation aids as part of a standard charge included in the price of their tickets. Air-transport officials are wary of signing on to Galileo because it may mean having to add additional charges to their system. The air-transport regulator said authorities in many nations are already “erecting barriers to Galileo because we are concerned we are going to be asked to pay more than our fair share.”

One European government official said a possible solution is for the current costly air-navigation aids to be phased out as Galileo charges are phased in so that the total bill to air-transport authorities does not increase.

Comments: pdeselding@compuserve.com