NaVIC, India’s Own GPS, Could Well Gain Momentum

India wants to take NaVIC global, which will happen if more satellites, say around 30, are launched.

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NaVIC, which stands for Navigation with Indian Constellation, is India’s own satellite navigation system, similar to the GPS system used in the United States.

The system’s heart is made up of seven satellites orbiting above India (the eighth will join them soon). The “Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System,’ or IRNSS, is made up of these satellites.

NaVIC has been in operation since 2018 (after a seven-year delay from the original target date). However, it is currently in the news because the Indian government has requested that all smartphones sold in India include the NaVIC app (like Google Maps). Because this requires some minor changes to phone hardware, particularly chipsets, the phones will be slightly more expensive.

Smartphone makers such as Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, and Readmi are dissatisfied but will comply

In some ways, it is better. GPS can take you within 20 metres of your target, whereas NaVIC can take you within five metres of the target. This may not be a big deal for individual users, but it is critical for military applications such as guided missiles. Unlike GPS, which can be used anywhere in the world, NaVIC is regional and can only be used within India and up to 1,500 kilometres from its borders.

However, India wants to take NaVIC global, which will happen if more satellites, say around 30, are launched. NaVIC is currently regional.

NaVIC is more precise than GPS because it employs two frequencies rather than one — the L5 (1176.45 MHz) and the S-band (2492.028 MHz). This improves accuracy by allowing satellite receivers to correct for atmospheric errors by using both frequencies at the same time.

Furthermore, the system has a higher uptime than GPS because, as stated in a government press release, “either frequency can serve the positioning requirement equally well.”

Though no deadline has been set for smartphone manufacturers to make their phones NaVIC-compatible, the government wants it ASAP; smartphone manufacturers want time—at least until 2025. They claim that using L1 frequency instead of L5 would be easier and less expensive because L1 is already in use and the chipsets would not need to be modified. However, according to a Reuter report, ISRO has stated that switching to L1 is not possible.

The reason for having NaVIC when Google Maps is free is that Google Maps uses GPS, which is an American technology. Dependence on another country is never a good thing because they can easily cut off service at any time. During the Kargil War in 1999, India asked the US for information on enemy locations, but the US refused. This made India realize the importance of having its own navigation system.

Aside from American GPS, Europe has Galileo, Russia has GLONASS, China has Beidou, and Japan has QZSS.

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