US and Europe set to sign satellite agreement

The European Union is set to sign an agreement with the US that would allow Europe to push ahead with its Galileo satellite...

The European Union is set to sign an agreement with the US that would allow Europe to push ahead with its Galileo satellite programme.

The agreement will set out technical standards to be used by Galileo and the US' Global Positioning System (GPS).

The deal is due to be signed at the EU-US Summit taking place in Ireland this weekend.

The EU has been seeking an agreement with the US since 1999 which will allow it to develop an independent satellite system for commercial purposes that can coexist with GPS, which is partly used for military purposes. Both Galileo and GPS are designed to determine a user's exact location using satellite signals.

The US Department of Defense-run GPS system gives priority to military needs, however, and Europe wants to establish a commercial system that will deliver reliable service for civilian applications like vehicle navigation, fleet management and emergency systems.

The EU has said that Galileo will allow Europe to run an independent system that does not rely on the US, which could deny access to civilian GPS users at any time. Galileo will be interoperable with GPS and the Russian Glonass System, which is also for military purposes.

Europe has set its sights on a network of 30 satellites, due to begin operating in 2008. The EU and the European Space Agency earmarked €1.1bn (£732m) for the initial phase of the project, from 2002 to 2005, and the European Commission will offer additional investments in the deployment stage to supplement private funding.

Three consortia have been shortlisted to operate the network - one led by Eutelsat, another led by EADS Space and a third that counts on Finmeccanica and Alcatel.

The winning bidder is set to fund two-thirds of the €2.2bn development project.
The EU predicted a booming market for satellite navigation, saying that it will be worth €300bn in worldwide hardware and services by 2020. It hoped that at least 98% of all receivers will have combined Galileo-GPS functionality by that time.

Scarlet Pruitt writes for IDG News Service

Read more on IT strategy