The new GPS signal hinted at yesterday will be called “L2C” is designed for commercial needs, which is no surprise with Galileo breathing down the world’s neck. Deputy Commerce Secretary David Sampson provided a few details at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event (full text of his statement). Here are some of the more interesting tidbits:
Global GPS sales have surpassed $20 billion a year, and will keep on growing at a healthy rate, according to industry estimates. Over 95% of GPS units sold are for civilian use.
Today we’re officially announcing deployment of another major upgrade to GPS. In September, the Air Force launched the first in a series of next-generation GPS satellites. The satellite was declared operational in December and is now broadcasting a second civilian signal that enables significant increases in accuracy and reliability when combined with the original signal.
The new signal, known as L2C, was specifically designed with commercial needs in mind. For example, it is transmitted with a higher effective power, so GPS receivers work better in urban areas and indoors. And it requires less energy to receive the signal, an important feature for battery-powered devices such as mobile phones.
In addition, the new signal is broadcast at the same radio frequency that many high-end users, such as surveyors, already leverage to boost GPS accuracy. For them, the benefit will be enhanced reliability.
I understand many thousands of units were sold over the past year in anticipation of the new signal. The fact that companies have invested in a new, unproven capability months before it was even available, speaks volumes about the commercial value of L2C.
Most of the gains will come from increased productivity.
More satellites in this constellation are expected later this year. No word in his talk about when it’ll actually be useable. But, there are more signals to which to look forward:
Looking ahead, we plan to introduce a third civilian GPS signal. This signal is designed to meet the stringent needs of airlines and other “safety-of-life” transportation, including an exclusive radio band, higher power, and greater bandwidth. The new signal also will be integrated into the national transportation system and will play a vital role in improving safety, fuel efficiency, and capacity in our airspace, railroads, and highways.
In addition, we have begun work on yet another, fourth signal. It will augment the original L1 signal. We are working with Europe, Japan, Russia, and other nations to make this signal an open, international standard. This would result in dramatic improvements in the performance of GPS in cities and other areas.