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Beidou Satellite Navigation System: China’s Version of GPS

About ”Beidou Satellite Navigation System”


  • BeiDou or BDS is a global navigation network alongside the US’ GPS, (Global Positioning System) Russia’s GLONASS and the European Union’s Galileo.
  • BeiDou is a global GNSS owned and operated by the People’s Republic of China.
  • BDS was formally commissioned in 2020.
  • The operational system of BeiDou consists of 35 satellites.
  • BDS was previously called Compass.


Beidou Satellite Navigation System: Why in news?


  • China on November 4, 2022 outlined plans to further expand the global reach of its home-grown Beidou satellite navigation system, billed as its alternative to America’s Global Positioning System (GPS).
  • The BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) is a project built and operated by China as a component of the country’s national security and economic and social development strategy.
  • After many years in development, it has become an important new element of China’s infrastructure, providing high-accuracy, round-the-clock positioning, navigation and timing services to global users in all weathers.


Beidou Satellite Navigation System: What is a Global navigation satellite system (GNSS)?


  • Global navigation satellite system (GNSS) is a general term describing any satellite constellation that provides positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) services on a global or regional basis.
  • While GPS is the most prevalent GNSS, other nations are fielding, or have fielded, their own systems to provide complementary, independent PNT capability.


Beidou Satellite Navigation System: What was China’s three-step BDS strategy?


  • China began to develop its own navigation satellite system in 1994.
  • BDS-1 entered service and began providing positioning services in China at the end of 2000. At this point, China became the third country in the world with a navigation satellite system.
  • BDS-2 was completed in 2012, providing passive positioning services to the Asia-Pacific region.
  • In 2020, BDS-3 was formally commissioned to provide satellite navigation services worldwide. This marked the successful conclusion of the three-step BDS strategy.


Beidou Satellite Navigation System: China’s Global Strategy


  • Beijing is strengthening regional cooperation with organizations such as ASEAN, the African Union, the League of Arab States, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.
  • Beijing has, since 2020, also made an outreach to South Asia and is already working, or in discussion with, a number of countries in the region, including Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, over adopting the Beidou satellite (BDS) navigation system.
  • The Belt and Road (BRI) countries are China’s priority.
  • The BDS, which now has a constellation of 30 satellites in orbit, began its international outreach once the set up was finished in 2018. It is now in use in more than half of the world’s countries.


Beidou Satellite Navigation System: What India is doing?


  • For the Chinese military, the BeiDou provides an independent navigation system especially for its missile launches reducing dependence on GPS which could deny access to certain areas in times of conflict.
  • The BDS could also serve as a backup if GPS were to go down entirely.
  • BDS is the first navigation satellite system to provide a regional short message communication service (SMS) for authorised users.
  • India too is building its navigational system called the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), with an operational name of NAVIC.

NavIC- Navigation with Indian Constellation

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