Europe’s Galileo global navigation satellite system is now enabling global positioning services on over one billion smartphones, the GSA agency said this week, as European industry and political leaders gathered in Prague to mark the landmark.
The Galileo satellite constellation is Europe’s alternative to the US’s Global Positioning System (GPS).
At the time of writing there are 156 Galileo-enabled smartphone models available on the market.
The number of smartphone chipsets that are manufactured with Galileo receivers is expected by European authorities to grow from 1.8 billion units in 2019 to 2.7 billion units in 2029.
GSA Executive Director Carlo des Dorides commented: “Chipset and receiver manufacturers in particular have been quick to leverage Galileo’s outstanding performance. These manufacturers believed in Galileo from the beginning, when Galileo was still an idea.”
What is Galileo?
The Galileo satellite system provides timing and positioning services for over 400 million users.
Recent satellite launches have brought the total number of Galileo satellites in orbit to 26. Once fully operational the Galileo constellation will number 30 satellites; all launches are expected to be completed by end-2020.
The Galileo positioning system is currently used by governments and civilian entities as a free positioning and navigation service. It is used in systems like eCall, which is mandatory in all European cars made since 31 March 2018. eCall detects serious impact and dials Europe’s single emergency number 112 in the event of a crash, while the Galileo satellite system triangulates the exact position of the vehicle.
Galileo has also been instrumental in aiding search and rescue efforts. Before the initial services were provided by the satellites, it took four hours to locate an activate distress beacon, this has been reduced down to ten minutes. The size of the search zone has also been reduced down from ten km to two km.
Galileo Smartphone Outages
Not everything has been rosy for the EU GPS alternative however: last July a major outage knocked the service offline for users who, thanks to a robust redundancy system, had to have their services backed up and enabled by the US’s GPS or Russia’s GLONASS.
That outage lasted over a week and was widely linked to software issues at Galileo’s Precise Timing Facility at Fucino, Italy.
Independent researchers and users of the service noted that the issues seemed to pertain to how the constellation was communicating data packages back to ground stations.
When a satellite sends data to Earth it is also sending timing data and astronomical positioning. It appears that a time stamp got repeated by a fault in a ground station which caused the whole system to calculate everything using the wrong date.
Following the incident the constellation caretakers The European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency, also known as GSA, stated that: “The technical incident originated by an equipment malfunction in the Galileo ground infrastructure, affecting the calculation of time and orbit predictions, and which are used to compute the navigation message. The malfunction affected different elements on the ground facilities.”
Work is ongoing to improve resilience, the GSA says.