Using a GNSS Receiver with Foreign Signals

Articles about GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, WAAS and other satellite navigation systems
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Using a GNSS Receiver with Foreign Signals

Postby jimh » Tue Feb 28, 2017 10:28 am

With the announcement of operational status for the GALILEO GNSS about two months ago (December 15, 2016), there also came a rather strange announcement from the FCC: a wavier was being requested to permit non-federal receive-only equipment in the U.S.A. to operate with those signals. According to an announcement at a government website, the situation is that federal "rules require licensing of non-federal receive-only equipment operating with foreign satellite systems, including receive-only earth stations operating with non-U.S. licensed radionavigation-satellite service (RNSS) satellites." [Emphasis added.]

(The cited article gives links to excerpts from federal regulations that provide for these requirements.)

Since I am not a federal entity and I own a GNSS receiver, I had no idea that a license was required to use that "equipment" with signals from a foreign-owned GNSS. Also, I am not the licensee of a FCC-licensed receive-only earth-station. (Apparently there is a provision in federal regulations for earth-stations, even receive-only stations which will have no transmitted emissions, to obtain a license. The purpose of the license would be to provide geographic protection to the earth-station site against interference from terrestrial signals that may be in bands shared with both terrestrial and satellite sources.)

The European Commision was apparently aware of these FCC regulations, and about four years ago (2013) they requested the FCC to grant a waiver to permit reception of signals from GALILEO. The FCC just recently (January 6, 2017) published a public notice inviting parties to comment on the request. The initial comment period closed a week ago (February 21, 2017) and the public comments have been posted at:*))%20OR%20proceedings.description:((17-16*)))&sort=date_disseminated,DESC

Among the comments are these remarks from Trimble & Deere:

The Commission’s Licensing Waiver Rules for New Non-U.S. GNSS
Signals Are Outdated with Respect to Modern GNSS Technologies.

Moreover, as written, the Commission’s rules do not contemplate GPS technology and GPS-enabled devices. The Commission’s current foreign licensing process is, therefore, outdated and does not reflect evolving technologies and infrastructure. The rules were never intended to capture ubiquitous GNSS devices, such as handheld GNSS receivers that can connect to mobile phones and tablets, allowing users to instantaneously receive positioning information, lower power chips readily found in consumer devices, and emerging autonomous devices. Instead, the rules were designed for traditional, large, and stationary earth stations, which only constitute a relatively small subset of the equipment in use today.

The Commission’s rules also do not recognize the current commercial reality of GPS and GNSS. GNSS devices are intended to provide coverage worldwide with other GNSS systems, not just within certain countries or geographical areas. GNSS enabled devices move freely across national borders, and many are designed for the global market, not just the U.S. To ensure compatibility today, most devices sold in the U.S. with GNSS capabilities can receive GNSS signals from multiple constellations, not solely signals from GPS. According to a study by the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency, “almost 60 percent of all available receivers, chipset and modules support a minimum of two constellations. Of these, nearly 40 percent are Galileo compatible,” demonstrating multi-constellation capability. Similarly, in the U.S., most devices are capable of supporting other international satellite constellations. As the European GNSS Service Centre observed “a multi-constellation capability that includes Galileo is becoming a standard feature across all market segments.” The Joint Commenters therefore respectfully submit that while the Galileo request should be promptly granted, it is time for the FCC, on a going-forward basis, to review its rules to better align the treatment of GPS devices operating with non-U.S. GNSS systems with current technological and market realities.


Also among the comments was this concise and quite sensible request from an individual citizen: "I would like to receive Galileo satellite Transmissions without a License."

Let's hope common sense prevails.

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Re: Using a GNSS Receiver with Foreign Signals

Postby Jefecinco » Tue Feb 28, 2017 7:00 pm

Decades ago a pretty smart individual told me to never make rules that are unenforceable. I thought that was good advice at the time so throughout my Army service (35 years) I abided by his advice and never regretted doing so.