Detailed review of resilient-PNT policies released

By on 1 March, 2024
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FrontierSI has undertaken a review of policy and activities related to positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) services, with the release of a new report and a white paper on the subject.

Australia’s PNT ecosystem is almost entirely reliant on services such as the GNSS provided by other countries, leaving it vulnerable to interruptions and loss of access.

With the nation’s economy and social fabric now dependent on digital technology and services, and facing increasing cyber threats, such vulnerability cannot be allowed to continue.

“PNT is an essential utility we presently have no control over,” said Joshua Critchley-Marrows, FrontierSI Space PNT Lead.

“Australia’s access to PNT is intrinsically linked to satellite-delivered services from foreign-owned and operated assets, such as the Global Positioning System from the USA.

“We must invest in our own infrastructure so we can ensure continuous access to this critical service that underpins nearly all aspects of our daily lives.”

Other countries have recognised vulnerabilities within their own PNT ecosystems and are acting swiftly to make current systems more robust and establish other systems that can be used as alternates or backups.

FrontierSI says that Australia needs to draw “from international strategies to tailor-make our solutions” to strengthen its systems “against disruptions while offering assured, robust, augmented, and alternative PNT solutions”.

Calling resilient PNT a “non-negotiable” requirement for safeguarding Australia’s critical infrastructure and economic vitality, FrontierSI’s report and accompanying white paper outline proactive measures — from legislative reinforcement to supply chain scrutiny — as well as ensuring vital industry sectors such as defence and maritime are at the forefront of a strategic approach.

The recommendations include:

  • Ensuring that building resilient PNT services is not treated as an outcome to enforcement of legislation, but that other methods should be considered to achieve the same level of resilience as other Australian critical infrastructure assets.
  • Developing an alternative source of timing, either through space or terrestrial means, that will aid in synchronisation and dissemination across the nation.
  • Review and address the nation’s supply chain dependencies on atomic clock technology.
  • Undertaking a comprehensive study and appraisal of all vulnerabilities to a loss of GNSS, with recommended mitigations.

Importantly, the report says that given the “multifaceted intersection of PNT across various Australian Government agencies and departments, a National PNT Office is necessary to consolidate PNT-related outputs and provide governance of PNT issues for Australia”. The United Kingdom has recently taken this exact step, with the planned establishment of a National PNT Office and a National Timing Centre.

“In a world of escalating competition and geopolitical tensions, PNT disruption has become more frequent and severe,” said Graeme Kernich, FrontierSI CEO.

“Australia is not exempt from these threats, and they will continue to escalate. Protecting our nation’s critical infrastructure through resilient PNT technology is not just a priority — it’s a necessity in today’s volatile landscape.”

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