On April 1, 2010, The US Department of Defense announced its intention to give up ownership of its GPS Satellite Network, citing concerns about the mix of consumer and military traffic, and the cost to maintain the system as it experiences record growth in use.
The GPS Satellite Mobile Phone Consortium, a group of the 24 largest telecoms worldwide, is expected to take ownership of the satellite network.
The so-called ‘GPS Satellite Mobile Phone Consortium’ will combine 24 of the world’s largest mobile carriers, including America Movil, AT&T, Bharti Airtel, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KT, mobilkom Austria, MTN Group, NTT Docomo, Orange, Orascom Telecom, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telenor, TeliaSonera, SingTel, SK Telecom, Sprint, VimpelCom and WIND. The four operators in the Joint Innovation Lab (JIL) mobile apps initiative – Vodafone, China Mobile, SoftBank and Verizon Wireless – are also included.
Under the terms of the agreement, the mobile phone group will lease the satellites currently in operation and be responsible for the cost of launching any new ones. It is expected that GPS will be completely under their control by 2012. By that time, a GPS device will need to use a cellular identifier to decode GPS signals.
Department of Defense officials declined comment on the future of the use of GPS in military applications, citing security concerns. It is speculated that the military has been launching a new satellite network strictly for its own use.
Not all are happy with the move. High on the list of consumer complaints is that the perception that mobile phone companies, in their typical fashion, will levy monthly fees for a GPS signal that used to be free.
In response to this criticism, the Mobile Phone Consortium stressed their intention to make the technology affordable and available to all. The Consortium itself will levy no fees for GPS use, but choices of pricing will be left to the individual telecoms.
The question comes up also of the future of GPS receivers that don't have a mobile phone component. While the number of mobile phone gps receivers has now overtaken these in number, there are still millions of these in existence. The GPS Satellite Mobile Phone Consortium says they are willing to license their technology to these manufacturers, and companies such as Garmin and Magellan may even join the consortium.
Resistance to the idea of a mobile phone owned GPS network has gone beyond words. Programmers who preferred not to be identified announced their intention to hack the new network as soon as it was launched. If they succeed, exploits will be posted widely around the internet, with the goal of keeping the technology free for all.
If you are concerned about this transfer of GPS ownership, add your name to those concerned by taking a short survey at this web address:
Feel free to pass on this message to others who might be concerned.
It is now April 2, 2010, and fortunately, the GPS network is still in the hands of the US Department of Defense. The above article is a work of fiction and was not commissioned by the US Department of Defense nor any of the phone companies mentioned.