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Blog Editor’s Note: We received this note the other day from highly respected GNSS expert Logan Scott. We share his concerns and want to pass them along to a wider audience.

One of the things I find discouraging about US efforts in PNT resiliency is how we are ceding the lead to the EU and others. Their coordinated efforts in standardization, testing, and deploying solutions (e.g. OS-NMA) could ultimately place the US in a “me too” position. Coordination across technology domains is also more apparent in EU and Chinese planning.

As just one example, 5G efforts in PNT are beginning to show real progress (e.g. 38.857). As 5G moves into frequency range 2 (>6 GHz), I expect to see even better accuracy and significant capability particularly in urban and indoor settings where densification and advanced antennas will be most apparent.

5G advances will lead to important capabilities not only in high integrity positioning but also in authentication and in proofs of location. I can’t overstate how important proofs of location are going to be as we move into an IoT and autonomous vehicle era. Position keyed databases are of vital importance in transportation, supply chain management, and infrastructure management. Yet, they are also highly vulnerable to attack. Witness some of the AIS games going on right now.

One of the most important things to understand about cellular is that the industry has a well-managed and proven process for rapidly fielding innovation. The base stations are predominantly SDRs and so, a new signal configuration is mostly a matter of software deployment. There is a formal two-year major release cycle geared towards fulfilling evolving needs in a timely manner.

Ultimately, the point I am trying to make is this: industry has the potential to move rapidly on diverse fronts. How do we harness this capability to establish trustable PNT systems? Does the US even have the basic organization and relationships with industry to influence outcomes?

Blog Editor’s Postscript: Perhaps RNTF’s biggest background concern is that the US government does not seem motivated to manage, let alone lead, PNT issues.

It is certainly not structured to do so. While there is a National Space-based PNT Executive Committee co-chaired by the deputy secretaries at the departments of Defense and Transportation, it is exceptionally limited in what it may do.

First, it is tasking only concerns space-based capabilities. So anything that doesn’t require a rocket launch is not in their job description.

Second, it may not take any actions on its own. Rather it is only authorized to make recommendations to the White House. Even if the Executive Committee were to concern themselves with other national PNT questions, they are not authorized for proactive, decisive action and engagement with industry.

We agree with Logan. PNT is sufficiently important to our national and economic security, an active and empowered federal entity should be engaging every day.