MUNICH, Germany —
The Chinese government has made no final decisions about the specific frequencies it will use on its Compass/Beidou global satellite-navigation system and is willing to negotiate with Europe and the United States to assure maximum compatibility, Chinese government officials said Feb. 21.
These officials said China is focusing first on its regional satellite navigation system, based on two satellites in geostationary orbit, and only later will turn to development of a global network of satellites in medium Earth orbit – the same architecture used by the U.S. GPS and Russian Glonass systems, and the future European Galileo project now in development.
China launched its
first navigation satellite into medium Earth orbit in 2007 to stake claim to frequencies it had reserved with the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations affiliate that regulates orbital slots and radio frequency allocations.
China subsequently published Compass specifications that appeared to occupy frequencies to be used by the future U.S. GPS military code, and by European encrypted Public Regulated Service (PRS) – a civil version of the GPS military signal.
Inhabiting these frequencies would mean that U.S. or European authorities would be unable to jam China’s Compass system without jamming their own navigation networks. When Europe proposed that Galileo occupy part of the future GPS military code frequencies, the U.S. government reacted strongly, saying such a move would be unacceptable. Europe subsequently backed off.
U.S. and European officials had expressed concern that China now was planning the same maneuver.
But Chinese officials attending the Munich Satellite Navigation Summit here Feb. 19-21 sought to downplay a possible conflict with Europe or the United States.
“We applied for our frequencies at about the same time as Europe,” said Yin Jun of the department of international cooperation in the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology. “As far as the overlay of signals with PRS, we have created a special working group [with the European Commission] to discuss Galileo and Compass. Both sides have suggested ideas on how to solve the problem.”
Jing Guifei, head of the navigation division of the National Remote Sensing Center of China, which is also part of the Science and Technology Ministry, said China will develop its regional navigation system first, with the global network of medium Earth orbit satellites to be deployed at a later date that has not been fixed.
In a Feb. 20 interview, Jing said China has become an active participant in a UN-coordinated group of satellite-navigation system providers – the United States, Russia, Europe, China, Japan and India – that seeks to assure maximum compatibility among the different global systems and major regional systems.
Jing said space-based positioning, navigation and timing networks are now becoming must-have items for all major powers, China included. He said China had made overtures to the U.S. and Russia about access to those nations’ systems, but were told full access would be refused.
U.S. officials said China was referring to the GPS military code, which is restricted to U.S. and allied forces.
U.S. government officials confirmed that China has begun to engage more fully in multilateral meetings, even if Chinese representatives appear to give conflicting information about the nature and timing of the global Compass system.
One U.S. government official said the most recent frequency plans for Compass appear to show some continued overlap with the U.S. GPS military code, and a major overlap with the Public Regulated Service of Europe’s Galileo.
China’s navigation plans pose a special quandary for Europe because European government authorities, with great fanfare, invited China to join Galileo in October 2004. An agreement was signed in July 2005, and China agreed to pay 5 million euros ($7 million) in cash to join the Galileo intergovernmental management group. China agreed to spend another 65 million euros developing Galileo services and infrastructure in China.
China was given responsibility for building the search-and-rescue transponder to be fitted onto the first Galileo satellites, as well as a laser reflector payload on these spacecraft.
China also began development of Galileo receivers and chipsets.
In a presentation here Feb. 21, Yin sprinkled his remarks about navigation with photos showing European heads of state celebrating the European Union-China partnership in Galileo.
What China’s future role will be in Galileo is unclear. Pedro Pedreira, executive director of the European GNSS Supervisory Authority, which handles Galileo relations with non-European governments, said Galileo’s relations with other nations will be formalized in the coming months.