Individual European Nations To Determine Uses for PRS

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European Union governments will have near-complete autonomy in determining how they will use the encrypted signal on Europe’s future Galileo satellite navigation system, but no final decision has been made on whether the users will be obliged to pay a fee for the service, according to Olivier Crop, head of the security unit at the GNSS Supervisory Authority (GSA).

GSA has been mandated by the European Union to oversee Galileo’s use, and in particular the use of its Public Regulated Service (PRS) signal, which in many respects will resemble the military code on the U.S. GPS system.

PRS has been a subject of controversy in Europe insofar as it brings Galileo into the realm of military applications. The PRS signal is to be reserved for government use. It will include anti-jamming features and be separate from Galileo’s other signals so that, if necessary in an emergency, these nonessential Galileo signals may be jammed, leaving PRS as the only Galileo service functioning in a given area of conflict.

At one point, the British government had suggested that, because Galileo is financed solely by civil agencies, any military use of PRS would need to be cleared by all 27 European Union nations.

That is no longer the case, Crop said. Later this year the European Commission is expected to publish specific guidelines for future PRS use. But he said it is already clear that all European Union governments will be given access to PRS, and that each nation will determine who will be authorized to use it.

“It is a national decision as to how the different applications develop,” Crop said. Each nation will need to create a point of contact between its capital and the two Galileo Security Monitoring Centers, to be built in Britain and France, which will distribute the keys to the PRS encryption codes.

Each nation also will be responsible for assuring that each PRS-enabled terminal is traceable.

What is not yet certain, he said, is whether PRS access fees will be applied for those governments using the service.

Several industry and government officials said PRS is not likely to be widely adopted if access fees are applied. Charles de Lauzun of the French space agency, CNES, said outfitting chipsets to receive both PRS and the GPS military code could add 10-15 percent to the chipset cost, depending on how many dual-mode chipsets are ordered. A receiver equipped with the GPS military code today costs around $800, de Lauzun said.

Most European NATO alliance members have access to the GPS military code, with no user fees. If PRS is to be widely adopted by European militaries, it will need to be inexpensive.