Galileo delays could cost dearly

28 Aug 2006

(Via Satellite via NewsEdge) The Galileo satellite navigation program is the largest pan-European industrial project ever, according to the European Commission.

European scientists and the industry have been working on this project for almost 10 years, but the program will not start commercial operation until the end of 2010 at the earliest - two to three years later than first anticipated. This is a development that may affect the commercial applications anticipated for the program.

When the idea of the Galileo project was broached near the end of the 1990s, the anticipated operational date was 2008. At the time, one government consultation assessed this schedule to be optimistic.

The most recent paper on the project's progress showed that assessment was correct.

A major sticking point was the development of a concession contract for the private operators of the system. Negotiations continue, but the Commission in June reported differences of opinion over sharing of risks with the system design as well as over market development and anticipated commercial revenue.

Delays in the Galileo program can have implications for the various sectors that the Commission believes will create a commercial market. The Commission lists several European legislative items that can support the economic viability of Galileo technology.

Looking at these items closely, however, the Galileo's slippage may affect its market viability as those potential market opportunities come into play earlier than the system itself.

For instance, the Commission refers to a 2004 directive on European electronic toll systems. That directive assumed Galileo would be in service by 2008 and required electronic toll systems by January 2007 to use satellite positioning, a 5.8GHz terrestrial system or mobile telephony call location technology.

The Commission was supposed to report on the migration of toll systems to these technologies by the end of December 2009, but if the European satellite system were not yet functioning, there would not be much to report on the Galileo aspects of the system.

Similarly, a 2005 Council regulation on protection of animals during transport clearly favors application of Galileo positioning. The regulation calls for all such transport to have a navigation system by 2009 (with a Commission report on the migration due in January 2008).

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