The Global satellite navigation system (GPS) has become the de facto medium and is almost synonymous with it (GNSS). The fact that GPS is the oldest navigation system is one of the reasons. The US Defense Department started it in 1978. Other navigation systems, such as GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo, Quasi-Zenith, and India’s recently released NavIC, are available.
As a result, in this post, we examine all of the GPS alternatives in depth and evaluate them point by point. We’ve discussed how a satellite navigation system’s coverage, accuracy, orbital height, and other characteristics define it. Let’s get started on the list of GPS alternatives without further ado.
Top GPS Alternatives in 2022
While NavIC is still relatively young in the world of satellite navigation systems, it has a lot of promise. In case you didn’t know, NavIC is an Indian-built satellite navigation system for its region and neighbouring countries. In a separate article, we’ve published a full explanation of NavIC and discussed why it’s better than GPS, so go ahead and read it to get a better picture. NavIC, on the other hand, is a regional navigation satellite system, as opposed to GPS, which is a global navigation satellite system.
In simple terms, GPS covers the entire globe for location positioning, whereas NavIC primarily covers India and few surrounding territories. However, in terms of precision, NavIC outperforms GPS, at least in India, because NavIC satellites are constantly in direct line of sight with India’s territory. To summarise, NavIC is an autonomous satellite navigation system developed by India that appears to be a better alternative to GPS. In addition, India plans to launch at least five more satellites in the next years, which is fantastic.
GLONASS is the only satellite navigation system that comes close to matching GPS in terms of coverage and accuracy. It has been in service since 1995 and was built and run by Russia.
In comparison to GPS’s 31 satellites, GLONASS has a constellation of 24 satellites. More than 20 satellites are required for a global navigation satellite system to function, and Russia has been maintaining the constellation since 2010.
Apart from that, GLONASS and GPS have nearly equal orbital heights and periods, therefore they are similar in certain ways. GLONASS offers a position precision of 5-10 metres, which is excellent and comparable to GPS’s 4-7 metres. Of course, with the help of local cellular triangulation, the position improves dramatically. Overall, GLONASS is a capable satellite navigation system developed by Russia, and it is only second to GPS in terms of accuracy.
China manages BeiDou, a global navigation satellite system similar to GPS. The project began in the year 2000 with the goal of developing a GPS alternative for its customers. However, because there were only two satellites, coverage was severely limited, and precision was off the mark. As a result, China deployed 10 and 15 satellites into Earth’s orbit in 2012 and 2015, respectively, making the constellation significantly larger.
After 2015, China launched seven more satellites, bringing the total number of operational spacecraft to 33. In terms of coverage, BeiDou is practically tied with GPS in the United States. Apart from that, the accuracy is stated to be 3-5 metres, which is outstanding, and it can even provide a location precision of 10cm, but this is just for military usage. All I can say is that BeiDou is as good as GPS and, without a doubt, a viable alternative to GPS.
The European Union opted to establish its own GNSS because major countries already had their own satellite navigation systems. They began working on the project in 2005, and the Galileo constellation went active in 2016. To be clear, Galileo, like GPS and GLONASS, is a global navigation satellite system. The constellation currently includes 22 active satellites orbiting the Earth. The EU is also attempting to boost the number of satellites to 30 by the end of the year.
Both GPS and Galileo have nearly identical operating mechanisms, although Galileo is somewhat higher in height. However, in recent years, Galileo has had some problems with atomic clocks and poor communications, so there’s that. To summarise, Galileo is a global navigation satellite system that will improve after it achieves Full Operational Capability (FOC) in 2020, and will then become a viable alternative to GPS.
The Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) is a Japanese regional satellite navigation system that is comparable to India’s NavIC. In Japanese, QZSS is known as Michibiki, and it is a constellation of four satellites. Japan began the initiative in 2010 and made the service available to the general public in 2018. The goal of Quasi-Zenith, like GPS, is to provide very precise and stable locating services across Japan and areas of Asia-Oceania. While Japan’s satellite navigation system has been sluggish to develop, the country has committed to launching seven more satellites by 2023.
In sync with Japan’s co-ordinates, QZSS, like NavIC, maintains the same principle of ‘direct line of sight at all times.’ It has placed its satellites in geostationary and geosynchronous orbits to ensure that at least one of them is always visible over Japan. To summarise, Japan’s QZSS is nowhere like the GPS of the United States, but it has a lot of potential, and we anticipate a further expansion in the near future.
The 5 Best GPS Alternative Systems
So those are Russia’s, China’s, India’s, the European Union’s, and Japan’s five GPS alternatives. As I previously stated, only a few countries have spent in developing their own satellite navigation systems, and this is mostly for self-reliance during aerial attacks, undersea warfare, and terrestrial warfare. It’s also worth noting that users have no say in whatever GNSS system they utilise. It all relies on the technology and navigation apps they’re utilising on their smartphones. As a result, bear that in mind. That’s all from us; please share your thoughts on the topic in the comments section below.