Why India wants its own satellite navigation technology

India is reportedly putting pressure on phone makers to integrate their homegrown navigation system called NavIC, a move that could increase costs for manufacturers. Mint explains why the government wants NavIC to do it and why it’s a sensible move.

What is NavIC and why does India need it?

Navigation apps and mobile phones in India typically use the Global Positioning System (GPS), which is owned by the US government and operated by the US Air Force. According to a Reuters report, India wants to reduce its dependence on such technology from abroad. The use of GPS can be prevented due to geopolitics. In 1999, the US refused India’s request for GPS data to track Pakistani troops in Kargil. Since then, the Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) has been working on Indian Constellation Navigation, or NavIC. China, EU, Japan and Russia already have their own navigation systems.

What are other uses of NavIC?

NavIC is used to track public transport and warn fishermen. Co-developed by Isro, the National Oceanic Information Service of India (Incois) and MapmyIndia, it will alert fishermen venturing into the deep sea of ​​their location and distance. with international shipping. MapmyIndia also builds and sells many NavIC-enabled Internet of Things devices. NavIC’s applications can extend to disaster management, vehicle tracking and fleet management, as a navigational assistant for hikers and travelers, and navigation for drivers, Isro declared. For example, the toll system could become NavIC-based.

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How does NavIC compare to GPS systems?

NavIC uses eight satellites and is said to have an accuracy of up to 5-10 meters on land compared to 20-30 meters for GPS. It includes India and an area extending up to 1,500 km beyond mainland India. NavIC is recognized by the International Maritime Organization as part of the Global Radio Navigation System, allowing its use in areas such as navigation.

What about NaviIC-enabled phones?

Most smartphone manufacturers rely on chip vendors like Qualcomm and MediaTek to add GPS or NavIC support to their system-on-chip (SoC). In 2020, Qualcomm launched chipsets like Snap-dragon 720G, 662 and 460 that support NavIC along with GPS. Qualcomm also added NavIC support to its flagship Snapdragon 865. Xiaomi and Realme were among the first to launch phones based on this chipset. Media-Tek’s Dimensity 900 series supports NavIC and is used in some Xiaomi and Oppo phones.

Why is it taking so long to deploy NavIC phones?

Getting all new smartphones ready with NavIC can be a challenge for handset makers as most of them plan their products at least a year in advance, including including phone components. Enabling NaviC on all smartphones in the short term risks disrupting those plans and upsetting the supply chain. There is another reason — navigation signals are now broadcast from NavIC satellites in the L5 and S bands. However, most mobile SoCs support the L1 band. Experts say this can be resolved with a software update.

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