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China, Europe to take navigation dispute to ITU

Italy: China and Europe have agreed to take their dispute over satellite navigation frequencies to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) by the end of this year, a senior European Commission official said.

The agreement, reached during a summit in Brussels, between China and the 27-nation European Union, may be a last-ditch attempt to resolve an issue that has been a thorn in the side of Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation programme for years.

Europe’s Galileo constellation of medium earth orbit satellites has two spacecraft in orbit and two scheduled for launch in mid-October. The programme is slated to launch six more in 2013, with at least four more to follow by the end of 2014.

China’s Beidou system, which employs satellites in medium earth, geostationary and inclined geostationary orbit, has 11 satellites in orbit and began initial operations in December. By the end of 2012, the system will be able to provide positioning, navigation and timing services for a wide swath of the Asia-Pacific region, according to the China Satellite Navigation Office.

Paul Weissenberg, deputy director-general of the enterprise and industry directorate-general of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said the commission believes that taking its case to the Geneva-based ITU is worthwhile.

In the past, ITU officials have said their regulatory purview extends only to cases in which actual or potential signal interference is alleged. In these cases, the ITU applies its first-come, first-served rules to determine who has priority access to satellite orbital slots or broadcast frequencies in question.

In this case, neither the EU nor China has alleged interference. Instead, the EU would like China’s Beidou programme to operate its secure, government-only service on radio spectrum that does not overlap with frequencies to be used by the Public Regulated Service (PRS) planned for Europe’s Galileo.

PRS, like China’s secure service and the US GPS M-code, is reserved for military and civil-security uses.

A Beidou signal overlap with PRS will not impinge on the operations of either system, but will make it difficult for either one to jam the signals of the other in the event of a conflict.

A joint statement issued after the EU-China summit said the two sides “expressed common willingness to enhance cooperation in the field of space technology, and on the civil aspects” of their navigation systems.

A separate statement on space technology dialogue was issued at the same time, and it is this document that calls for the two sides to take their case to the ITU before the end of this year, Weissenberg said.

Source: Space News