Beidou outpaces GPS in Chinese market

By on 1 November, 2017

Ground track of a Beidou-M satellite. Photo by Secretlondon via Wikimedia Commons.

China’s BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) is outpacing GPS in its home market of China, and expanding rapidly in Southeast Asia.

BDS is China’s homegrown IGNSS network, comparable to the US’s GPS, Russia’s GLONASS and the European Galileo constellation.

Founded in 1994 with two earlier iterations, third generation Beidou-3 satellites are now being developed and launched, with this newest iteration of the network being claimed to exceed GPS accuracy. Beidou-2, also known as COMPASS, has an accuracy available to civilians of 10 metres, with a licensed military service offering accuracy of 10 centimetres.

BDS uses geostationary satellites, unlike GPS and GLONASS’ intermediate circular orbit, meaning they do not need as large a system for equivalent coverage, but that coverage is limited to where geostationary satellites are visible.

Lei Fanpei, chairman of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) — China’s main space agency contractor, recently announced that groups of Beidou-3 satellites would be launching in November, and that the 35-satellite system would be completed by 2020. Following the partial failure of a Long March 3B rocket earlier this year, rockets that typically loft the Beido-3 satellites into orbit, Chinese space missions were halted, but the new next launch is anticipated for November 3.


BDS has also overtaken GPS in terms of the number of chips that receive signals from the system, according to Huang Haihui, an executive at geospatial services provider Shenzhen-listed Beijing UniStrong Science & Technology Co as reported by Global Times, also reporting that the overall output value of GNSS and the location-based services market in China was worth 211.8 billion yuan in 2016, up 22.06 percent from the previous year, with BDS contributing 70 percent of this figure.

Launch of a Long March 3B rocket, often used to carry Beidou satellites into orbit. Photo by AAxanderr via Wikimedia Commons.

BDS penetration beyond China is primarily in the Asia-Pacific, with China intending to provide service to all of the countries encompassed by its Belt and Road initiative, with global coverage anticipated with Beidou-3’s completion in 2020.

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