The Null Device

Cheese-eating satnav monkeys

The EU is planning to launch its own navigation satellite system to rival the US military-controlled GPS network. The CESMs fear that the US' track record for throwing its weight around would extend to tactically distorting GPS results to punish trade rivals or such; some would argue that given that GPS is a US military facility, one which has only been opened to civilian access out of the goodness of their hearts (much like the original Internet), they have every right to use it; though, by the same logic, the Europeans (and the Chinese and Russians and whoever) have the right to launch their own networks. The Pentagon claims that this is a dreadful waste of resources given that they have GPS, though reserves the right to manipulate GPS accuracy for tactical reasons.

The ideal would be a unified global network controlled by a non-partisan body (the UN perhaps, or a multinational infrastructure cartel like the ones that lay submarine cables). Maybe in 50 years we'll reach that level.

Of course, this is all assuming that Galileo, the ESA's GPS alternative, gets off the ground. After the Iraq debacle, Britain is unlikely to support it for one (the Blair administration has been outspoken in condemning multipolarism, and given that Washington is unhappy with potential challenges to its supremacy, London probably won't hurry to pay its share of the Galileo bills, and may even attempt to scrap it); meanwhile, the system is mired in the usual Eurobureaucracy, with international squabbling over funding halting work. And if they wish to go ahead, they'd better hurry; the frequencies allocated to Galileo by the ITU will be forfeited if a satellite isn't launched by 2005.

There are 2 comments on "Cheese-eating satnav monkeys":

Posted by: mitch http:// Wed May 28 03:29:54 2003

China has also been launching "navigation and positioning" satellites:

I believe even US allies like Japan and Israel are putting up their own spy satellites in order to have an independent source of intelligence.

Posted by: acb Wed May 28 05:10:41 2003

Spy satellites are easy: one by itself will be useful. Navigation satellites require a cluster of 24 or so (like GPS) to be reliable and have good coverage. I doubt whether Japan, Israel, India or whoever would have their own GPS-like satnav clusters.

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