In an effort to rival its foreign competitors, China is in the process of launching its own satellite navigation system, according to Xinhua news. The GPS competitor, called Beidou, is government owned and operated and is meant to compete with other global systems that Chinese citizens have been using. There are six satellites already up and running, and by next year it should be able to cover most of Asia and the surrounding islands. By 2020, Chine wants to have 35 operating satellites and Beidou is expected to support full global coverage.
But Beidou doesn’t want to stop at just keeping pace with our own GPS system, it wants to one up it. According to Beidou’s chief designer Sun Jiadong, “The main feature of Beidou is that it can deliver messages. In other words, if I pick up a cell phone and communicate with Beidou, it can give me my position.”
Beidou is also meant to help China map the world. The government has been cracking down on illegal online mapping over the last year, in an effort to reduce the amount of information it views as “sensitive” being released. This new navigation system is also releasing orbiters–of which China has now launched eight–that will “provide services for mapping, transport, meteorology and telecommunication industries in the Asia Pacific region.”
Up until now, many Chinese have relied on other forms of navigation systems, and that means a significant amount of business could gradually be lost by US-based GPS companies. If Beidou, in fact, can seriously challenge what other systems have to offer, it could also spur improvements in the general industry.