(PTI file)
(PTI file)

Opinion | Isro’s GPS hardsell

Isro has a business opportunity to make the most of, what with “eyes in the sky” crucial to the operation of so many location-oriented apps

India’s billion-plus mobile phone users and the country’s strategic need of an indigenous satellite navigation system have placed the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) in a sweet spot, so to speak, to commercialise its own positioning system NavIC: Navigation with Indian Constellation. The state-run space agency believes it has a business opportunity to make the most of, what with “eyes in the sky" crucial to the operation of so many location-oriented apps. For hardware compatibility, Isro wants chipmakers to integrate NavIC in all upcoming handsets that would be sold in India. To start with, it has held talks with the US-based Qualcomm and Singapore’s Broadcom to make chips that support NavIC in mobile phones.

The GPS that we have known and used all along is the satellite-based radio navigation system owned by the US government and operated by the American Air Force. Its use in India, however, is set to fall, as the government has asked for all commercial vehicles registered after 1 April this year to have NavIC trackers. It is worth noting that India is not the only country, apart from the US, to have its own positioning system. Russia operates GLONASS, the European Union has Galileo while China runs BeiDou Navigation Satellite System.

Having a system of one’s own offers strategic autonomy in military operations. During the Kargil War 20 years ago, the US refused to provide India critical information on the movement and precise location of enemy troops. Isro stepped in. Today, our space agency has a system that startups aiming to use a drone to deliver, say, a pizza, could perhaps make use of.

Close