Image: FCC

What’s New: FCC Commissioner Simington gave a speech the other day. He mentioned two of our major concerns about GPS/GNSS:

  • Other nations’ GNSS have overtaken GPS – and he hints at some of the soft power implications
  • Use of GNSS in critical infrastructure subjects it to manipulation by foreign entities and others.

Why It’s Important: It’s good that a senior official knows and is concerned about the issue. Of course, the FCC is the source of another threat to GPS reception with its decision on the Ligado order…

What Else To Know: Here are the relevant remarks from his speech (full text here):

Even the most seemingly benign use of foreign technology can become a security threat. GPS, developed and controlled by the US military, was once the only satellite-based global positioning and precision timing system in the world. But now it faces competition from foreign alternatives like the EU’s Galileo, Russia’s Glonass, and China’s BeiDou. Supporting those systems is sometimes a requirement for device manufacturers wishing to sell in those countries. So between the economic incentives (such as economies of scale) for manufacturers to have a single model for all markets, and the fact that these positioning systems sometimes offer higher precision than the American GPS system at the moment, it appears that many American businesses and consumers are knowingly or unknowingly relying on these foreign systems in their operations. At first it might seem that there is not much risk. After all, these are receive only systems that do not involve any transmission from receiving devices back to the satellites. (A quick note, the Chinese system does have a higher-accuracy two-way mode, but let’s put that aside) But if these timing and positioning systems are being used to guide precision industrial and commercial processes in the US, then our adversaries could potentially cause widespread disruption to by shutting down access within the US or, even worse, intentionally returning incorrect data to American receivers of their signals.”

DHS Logo

Feb 7, 2008 – DHS Announces Backup for GPS

February 7, 2008

Contact: (202) 282-8010


Today the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will begin implementing an independent national positioning, navigation and timing system that complements the Global Positioning System (GPS) in the event of an outage or disruption in service.

The enhanced Loran, or eLoran, system will be a land-based, independent system and will mitigate any safety, security, or economic effects of a GPS outage or disruption. GPS is a satellite-based system widely used for positioning, navigation, and timing.  The eLoran system will be an enhanced and modernized version of Loran-C, long used by mariners and aviators and originally developed for civil marine use in coastal areas.

In addition to providing backup coverage, the signal strength and penetration capability of eLoran will provide support to first responders and other operators in environments that GPS cannot support, such as under heavy foliage, in some underground areas, and in dense high-rise structures. The system will use modernized transmitting stations and an upgraded network.