Exclusive: Your mobile could soon use India’s NavIC satellite signals for navigation

In India, while using a navigation/maps application on your mobile device, your gadget is using signals from the Amercian Global Positioning system(constellation of satellites) or perhaps the equivalent Russian Glonass system. For several years, India’s scaled-down version of GPS, known as NavIC(Navigation with Indian Constellation) has been operational. However, the civilian services offered by NavIC are not compatible with most mobile phones(which form a large segment of users). In less than two years, this is set to change and your gadgets will be able to provide more accurate positioning and navigation, thanks to a new fleet of Indian satellites. 

NVS-01, the first among the new series of five satellites was launched by the Indian Space Agency, earlier this week. Every six months from now, a new satellite will be added, until the fleet of five is completed. At present, India uses its Navigation with Indian Constellation(NavIC) series of satellites for civilian and defence navigation, positioning, and timing services in the Indian mainland and even 1500 km beyond India’s borders. “NVS series of satellites will sustain and augment the NavIC with enhanced features. This series incorporates L1 band signals additionally to widen the services” ISRO had said.

ISRO Chairman Dr S.Somanath explained to WION that the original series of NavIC satellites had a shortcoming – they operated only in the L5-band and S-band frequencies. This was because India hadn’t received the International Telecommunication Union authorization for using the L1 and L2 frequency bands, which are widely used worldwide for navigation services. It was after the European constellation Galileo was granted permission to use the L1 band, that India also requested for the same and obtained it. 

“Now that L1 band is available on the NVS-01 satellite(and will be available on subsequent NVS satellites), it is an interoperable frequency and can be used across all chipsets(of mobile devices), provided they use our signal architecture” 

Dr Somanath told WION. 

Earlier, the Indian government and ISRO had been making efforts to make chipmakers and phone manufacturers adopt the L5 and S bands frequencies(which the original NavIC series used). However, this was met with various roadblocks as L5 and S were not civilian-use frequencies. Therefore, phone makers had to put in additional chipsets and hardware to make their devices NavIC-compatible, thus making their devices costlier. A mix of such technological and cost reasons meant that phone makers did not widely adopt NavIC and millions of Indian smartphone users couldn’t benefit from it.

“Henceforth, with NavIC being operational on the L1 frequency band and when all other satellites in the NVS fleet are service-ready, naturally all our mobile phones can be made compatible with NavIC. This is possible without any additional investment and extra hardware from the manufacturer’s end” Dr. Somanath concluded. 

“For NavIC to work on our devices, phone manufacturers will have to roll out some software updates alone. Hereafter, no hardware-based changes or new chips will be required, as all mobile chipsets are compatible with the L1 band that the NVS series of satellites will be using” Nilesh M. Desai, Director of ISRO’s Space Applications Centre told WION. Based in Ahmedabad, ISRO’s SAC is responsible for designing and developing space-borne instruments for ISRO missions and the development and operationalisation of applications of space technology for societal benefits.

At present, NavIC services are being used in L5 and S-band frequencies for select civilian purposes. This is being done using custom-made devices in certain phones, and fixed receivers. Such receivers are used for train tracking, transportation fleet monitoring, fishing boat monitoring, geofencing etc. 


You can now write for wionews.com and be a part of the community. Share your stories and opinions with us

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *