China's answer to GPS extends service beyond Asia-Pacific

Two Beidou-3 satellites on a single carrier rocket taking off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan province on Nov 19. Most smartphone chips sold globally will be compatible with Beidou.
Two Beidou-3 satellites on a single carrier rocket taking off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan province on Nov 19. Most smartphone chips sold globally will be compatible with Beidou. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • China's alternative to the US-owned Global Positioning System (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.

The service, called Beidou, is now available in some parts of Europe and Africa within China's Belt and Road initiative, spokesman Ran Chengqi told reporters on Thursday in Beijing.

The company, which uses a series of satellites to provide users' location with an error of about 10m, plans to launch 12 more satellites by 2020. ''From today, wherever you go, Beidou will be with you, anywhere, any time,'' said Mr Ran.

China started work on its own satellite navigation and positioning system in the 1990s to reduce its dependence on the GPS 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, including mapping services, cars and smartphones.

China launched the 42nd and 43rd Beidou satellites last month. Most smartphone chips sold globally will be compatible with Beidou, the first navigation system to have built-in telecommunications features such as text messaging. 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.

China stocks linked to Beidou advanced yesterday.

China Spacesat, whose products include navigation equipment based on Beidou's technology, climbed up as much as 5.2 per cent in Shanghai trading.

Beijing BDStar Navigation, Shanghai Huace Navigation Technology, and Guangzhou Hi-Target Navigation Tech all gained as much as 10 per cent in Shenzhen trading before giving up gains later in the day.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2018, with the headline 'China's answer to GPS extends service beyond Asia-Pacific'. Print Edition | Subscribe