China's answer to GPS, Beidou, extends service beyond Asia Pacific

Two Beidou-3 satellites attached to a single carrier rocket take off at the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre, Sichuan province, China, on Nov 19, 2018.
Two Beidou-3 satellites attached to a single carrier rocket take off at the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre, Sichuan province, China, on Nov 19, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China's alternative to the American-owned GPS extended its coverage beyond the Asia-Pacific region with a goal of becoming a dominating technology in the future, spurring gains in shares of related companies.

Called Beidou, the service works like GPS, using a series of satellites to provide users precision positioning with an error of about 10m. Most smartphone chips sold globally will be compatible with Beidou, the first navigation system to have built-in telecommunications features such as text messaging.

"From today, wherever you go Beidou will be with you, anywhere, anytime," said Beidou spokesman Ran Chengqi at an event in Beijing on Thursday (Dec 27).

China stocks linked to Beidou advanced on Friday. China Spacesat Co, whose products include navigation equipment based on Beidou's technology, climbed as much as 5.2 per cent in Shanghai trading and was among the best performers on the CSI 300 Index.

Beijing BDStar Navigation Co, whose website says its establishment and development are closely associated with Beidou; Shanghai Huace Navigation Technology, which has projects that apply Beidou technology; and Guangzhou Hi-Target Navigation Tech Co, which has a tourism business that uses Beidou technology, all gained as much as 10 per cent in Shenzhen trading.

China started work on its own satellite navigation and positioning system in the 1990s to reduce its dependence on the Global Positioning System developed by the United States. Named after the Chinese word for the Big Dipper star pattern, the Beidou system is now in its third stage and is capable of providing navigation and positioning services in different geographical regions.

The goal is to have complete worldwide coverage by the end of this decade.

Beidou, which provides navigation and positioning for China's military and critical infrastructure, is finding increasing use in everything from mapping services to cars and smartphones. China launched the 42nd and 43rd Beidou satellites in November, extending coverage to some parts of Europe and Africa.

Beidou is among a slew of ambitious projects that the world's second-largest economy is undertaking to sharpen its competitiveness in aerospace. Earlier this month, China sent a probe to the far side of the moon, a place no other country's probe has ventured into.

The nation is also developing civil passenger aircraft that could eventually rival models from Airbus and Boeing, while its private start-ups are racing to launch rockets to send satellites into orbit at low cost to meet demand for commercial space services.