News >China

Hopes are high for domestic GPS system

2011-03-22 07:55

BEIJING - China's car owners are likely to start using a homegrown global positioning system next year, senior space technology experts said at the weekend.

Liu Jingnan, from the Chinese Academy of Engineering who is a specialist in GPS technology, said at a conference in Beijing that the country's own satellite navigation system, Beidou, will start to offer a GPS service aimed at drivers in 2012, according to a Beijing News report on Monday.

It was the first time the Beidou project has been connected with a grassroots civilian use and an alternative to the currently dominant United States GPS navigation system.

"We estimate the price of navigation chips through Beidou will not exceed those of US GPS," Liu was quoted in the report as saying. He said each chip will likely be sold for around 100 yuan ($15).

"It will create a huge market if Chinese people can use the country's own system," said Yang Yuanxi, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Currently, the Beidou system is mainly used for military navigation and to monitor agriculture and the fisheries, as well as for large engineering projects.

Although the country hopes to commercialize the Beidou project so it can compete with foreign systems, industry insiders took the experts' comments with a pinch of salt.

Xiao Xiongbing, deputy director of the consultation office with China's Association of Global Navigating Satellite Systems, told China Daily it is unlikely that the price of chips will be as low as Liu hopes without government subsidies.

He also cast doubt on the system's technological capabilities, saying more tests will be needed to prove the reliability of GPS devices that use the system.

China began work on the Beidou Navigation System in 2000. Last year, the country sent five Beidou satellites into orbit. The launches were part of the plan to have 12 satellites in place to form a network that covers the Asia-Pacific region by 2012. A global network is expected to be completed in 2020.

Guo Rui contributed to this story.

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