Galileo now supports GNSS corrections natively and free of charge, a feature which will have ramifications on the existing precise GNSS market.
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January 2023 marked the launch of the High Accuracy Service (HAS) for Galileo, Europe’s Global Satellite Navigation System (GNSS). HAS offers GNSS corrections for use in Precise Point Positioning (PPP), allowing for horizontal positioning accuracy of 20cm and vertical accuracy of 40cm for GNSS solutions leveraging the service. The aim for this service is to deliver precise GNSS for many applications in markets such as mapping, surveying, and navigation for agriculture, automotive, drones, rail, and maritime. Crucially, HAS is free of charge, potentially posing a threat to existing commercial and enterprise GNSS corrections services such as from Trimble, Hexagon, or u-blox.
HAS Provides a New Option for Precise GNSS
Precise Point Positioning techniques use fixed terrestrial stations to measure the extent of GNSS errors in the area, broadcasting the data to compatible receivers which can leverage that data to correct their own GNSS readings. While the parameters vary, especially for Galileo HAS, PPP solutions can typically achieve accuracy of up to 10cm within minutes. Unlike other GNSS correction solutions such as Real-Time Kinematic positioning (RTK) which requires two-way communication, the one-way broadcasting of correction data allows for a theoretically infinite number of GNSS devices to leverage the same signals. Commercial precision GNSS vendors will often support PPP in their offerings such as Rx Networks’ Truepoint.io, Trimble’s CentrePoint, Hexagon’s SmartNet, and Fugro’s Marinestar. However, it is also worth noting that PPP is often only one component of offerings with many more correction solutions also leveraging Differential GNSS, RTK, and newer techniques such as RTK-PPP.
As opposed to commercial solutions which require an internet or terrestrial network connection to communicate correction data, the initial deployment of Galileo HAS is able to upload correction measurements to satellites and subsequently provide GNSS corrections over satellite signals using the E6-B band. This means that any GNSS receiver with access to Galileo also has access to HAS, potentially removing the need for additional connectivity when performing precise GNSS. HAS corrections will also be available by internet, further expanding the availability of the service.
Is HAS a Hassle to Existing Correction Service Business Models?
The European GNSS Agency lists a wide range of target applications for HAS such as:
- Mapping, Surveying, and GIS for Geomatics
- Precision planting and fleet management in agriculture
- Navigation for drones and automotive, rail, and maritime
- Enhanced positioning for consumer devices, robotics, and Augmented Reality (AR)
However, the limitations of HAS as a precise GNSS solution means that these use cases are largely better serviced by alternative precision GNSS solutions. The majority of traditional precise GNSS applications such as agriculture and mapping will require the higher precision provided by more complex GNSS correction services such as RTK or RTK-PPP. PPP in smartphones, on the other hand, has been available from commercial correction providers such as Trimble and Rx Networks, but has traditionally lacked a desirable application to incentivize adoption. Trimble and Qualcomm’s collaboration announced in 2022 brought precise GNSS support to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 and Snapdragon 888 mobile platforms, allowing for lane-level precision when navigating drivers, while other transport-based applications have also attracted attention form precise GNSS such as precise-pickup locations in ride-sharing.
The capabilities of HAS appears to be very deliberately designed in order to not step on the toes of commercial operations and solution providers within the market. As commercial GNSS correction service providers continue to drive innovation, there are ample ways to provide superior performance and additional features on top of what HAS can offer. Higher accuracy, as low as 2cm, over RTK or RTK-PPP, and better availability of corrections through wide-area terrestrial network coverage allow for systems to position faster and more reliably, and Internet of Things (IoT) connected services can leverage other location technology for superior positioning as well as use location data for higher-level services within insights and analytics. HAS will find its niche for industries which require GNSS services between what is provided from the traditional GNSS service and what is available from commercial vendors, such as non-critical drone positioning or enhanced smartphone navigation, with many of the use cases for HAS targeting other European incentives including Geotagging for agriculture and monitoring railway conditions.
Galileo HAS is not the only satellite-based correction service emerging, with Japan’s QZSS offering a similar solution and China’s BeiDou-based PPP solution currently in testing. Vendors should recognize this as another evolution of what GNSS natively provides, much like the shift from GPS to multiple GNSS constellations and the arrival of multiple civilian frequencies allowing for better positioning. GNSS chipset suppliers will be looking to support HAS through support for the relevant frequencies and subsequent firmware (if not already in the case of vendors such as Allystar, Trimble, Novatel, and Septentrio) while GNSS solutions providers will have a new tool at their disposal to bolster their commercial solutions—something already seen in products such as ComNav’s K8 series chipsets or Eos’ Arrow Gold+ Receiver.