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Beijing to install BDS instead of GPS

By Yin Yeping (Global Times)

09:27, April 09, 2013

Beijing information technology authorities said Monday that they will update the transportation coordination platform by installing BeiDou navigation satellite systems on buses and taxis in the capital by 2013.

The China-developed BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) will provide passengers with updated information such as the location and expected time of arrival of public transportation.

Experts said that this measure could be taken as a starting point to overturn the dominance of the US-government developed Global Positioning System (GPS) in the nation, and the measure will be good for national security as well as economic growth.

BDS at present has 16 satellites that were launched from October 2000 to 2012, with the aim of providing technical support in the fields of mapping, fishing, transportation and disaster reduction, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

By the end of 2012, the system had over 130,000 military and civilian users. Thirty satellites will be needed before BDS can provide complete global coverage.

BDS was adopted for commercial use at the end of 2012, according to a press release from the Beijing Municipal Commission of Economy and Information Technology (BCEIT) Monday.

Government projects with navigation service requests will use BDS as a priority and the system will also be promoted for public use in the future.

Meanwhile, the system will also be accessible with a mobile application by 2013, the commission said.

In practical terms, the system will be installed on buses and taxis so that residents in future will know when the next bus will arrive, and how crowded it is, according to the Beijing Daily Monday.

Taxis fitted with BDS will have their location linked to the Beijing Municipal Transportation Operations Coordination Center so that drivers can be informed when a resident near them wants to take a taxi.

By the end of this year, 18,000 buses and over 10,000 taxis will have BDS installed, Xinhua reported Monday.

"We will be expanding our scope to buses instead of just taxis," said an employee surnamed You from the BCEIT Monday.

She noted that the taxis that are already equipped with GPS will have BDS installed as well.

However, few details have been publicly released as to exactly how commuters will be able to benefit from the information, such as what kind of public transport smartphone app will be created or if new electronic signs are to be installed at bus stops to give all commuters the updated information.

Xiang Ligang, telecom expert and CEO of industry information portal, told the Global Times that the reason the government is introducing BDS to sectors such as transportation is for security and economic reasons.

"Despite the fact that GPS is commonly applied in a variety of industries in China, this navigation satellite system is in the hands of the US government," he said, noting that given this fact, it is necessary for China to make its own navigation system to replace GPS.

"It will take around three years for BDS to take over the dominant position of the US GPS in China, although the public transportation project is a good start," Xiang said.

Nevertheless, Xiang also noted that since BDS is fairly new in comparison with GPS, there are drawbacks to overcome.

"The Chinese one might be not as stable as GPS and the cost to use it could be rather higher," he said.

Liu Xin, a taxi driver from Beijing Tianma Taxi Company, said that although many taxis already have GPS devices installed that allow both residents and the transport coordination center to track their location, he welcomes the introduction of BDS for taxis.

"If there's more competition among these service providers, then we can have a better service," he said,

"But I will choose the most efficient one regardless of whether it is GPS or BDS," he said.

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