Thailand Steps Up as GPS Rival’s First Customer

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Since 2000, China has steadily built and launched satellites for Beidou, its own version of the United States GPS network. The country hopes to have its final stages (a goal of 30 satellites) completed by 2020. The Beidou satellite network has been initially designed to service Southeast Asia (which is its current capability) with the intent of global functionality when the project is finished. Up until now, no other country has taken the plunge since little data yet exists that the system fully works.

Why Target Thailand?

Apparently, it’s because of the United States’ dominance in the Southeast Asian sector, says a professional member of the Beidou project. China had sought out Thailand to test the Beidou system as the first non-Chinese user, picking up the majority of the 2 billion yuan bill to fund the Thai implementation. This equipping would include Thailand’s own nationwide system for remote detection, location for international receiver design and manufacturing (as ideally other Southeast Asian countries join Beidou), and a substantial Thai ground station for Beidou satellites. The success of Beidou in Thailand, according to the Chinese government, is key in gaining control of the market from GPS technology.

What Will China Do With the Thai Beidou System?

China has presented the Beidou project to Thailand as part of its provision for international aid. The benefits Beidou could bring to the Thais would include transportation, allocation of power (the country’s electrical grid), international criminal tracking, and aid in natural disaster search and rescue efforts. Thailand intends to operate both the GPS and Beidou systems simultaneously for now, with one system providing service should the other temporarily go down.

And For the Rest of the World … ? 

While the Beidou system is currently under construction in Thailand, both Brunei and Laos are also looking into the possibility of its implementation. As Beidou grows, its market will probably closely resemble that of the GPS system. In fact, in the works are both hardware and software designs for many of the roles GPS now fills, including technology for vehicle monitoring and mobile devices.

The Beidou system, though in its early stages, will most likely become fully functional by 2020. Time and its success will tell whether it can provide a competitive edge for GPS in the technology market.

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Claire Richards

One thought on “Thailand Steps Up as GPS Rival’s First Customer

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