Frequently asked questions

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What is Galileo?

Similar to the American GPS, Galileo is the European Union's Global Satellite Navigation System (GNSS) that provides radio signals for position, navigation and timing purposes.  When completed, Galileo will offer five services: the Open Service, the Public Regulated Service, the Commercial Service, the Search and Rescue Service and provide contribution to the integrity- monitoring service.

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What are the Galileo Initial Services?

Galileo is being deployed which means that the satellite and ground station infrastructure is being built-up. Commencement of Initial Services marks the transition from a system in deployment and test phase to one that is operational. Initial Services operation will allow all mass-market devices containing a Galileo-enabled chipset, such as smartphones and vehicle navigation devices, to use Galileo signals for positioning, navigation and timing.

Galileo Initial Services are the first step towards full operational capability. Galileo system deployment will continue with additional satellite launches to enlarge the constellation, which will gradually improve the system performance and availability worldwide.  The constellation is expected to be completed by 2020.

The Initial Services offered by Galileo will be: the Open Service, the Public Regulated Service (PRS) and the Search and Rescue Service (SAR).

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What is the Galileo Open Service?

The Galileo Open Service is a free mass market service for positioning, navigation and timing that can be used by Galileo enabled chipsets in, for example, smartphones or in-car navigation systems.

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What is the Galileo Public Regulated Service?

The Public Regulated Service is for government authorised users, such as civil protection, fire brigades, customs officers and the police. It is particularly robust and fully encrypted to provide service continuity for government users in national emergencies or crisis situations, such as terrorist attacks.

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What is the Galileo Search and Rescue Service?

The Galileo Search and Rescue service is Europe's contribution to an international emergency beacon locating system called "Cospas-Sarsat". Thanks to Galileo’s Search and Rescue Service, locating distress beacons will substantially improve. For example, after someone activates a distress beacon, the time to find them, lost at sea or in the mountains, will be reduced from up to three hours to just ten minutes. Additionally, the distress beacon's location will be more accurately determined, to within 5km; an improvement on the current 10 km.

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What is the Declaration of Galileo Initial Services?

With the Declaration of Galileo Initial Services, the European Union is announcing that the Galileo satellites and ground infrastructure are ready for use. The conditions under which the Galileo Initial Services will be delivered, including their expected performance (accuracy, etc) and availability, have been published on the website of the European Service Centre found here.

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What are the benefits of Galileo Initial Services for the end user?

Galileo Initial Services are fully interoperable with GPS, and their combined use will bring many benefits to the end user. With Galileo satellites working in conjunction with GPS, there will be more satellites available, meaning more accurate and reliable positioning for end users. Navigation in cities, where satellite signals can often be blocked by tall buildings, will particularly benefit from the increased positioning accuracy this will provide.

Also, Galileo's accurate timing will contribute to enabling more resilient synchronisation of banking and financial transactions, telecommunication and energy distribution networks to help them operate more efficiently - an often overlooked, but essential task.

Finally, Galileo will help save lives. Galileo’s Search and Rescue service reduces the time it takes to detect emergency distress beacons from up to three hours to just ten minutes.  As distress beacon locations will also be determined more accurately, people lost at sea or in the mountains can be rescued more quickly.

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Can Galileo-enabled devices be found on the market?

The market is ready for Galileo. In 2010 there were only three chipset manufacturers producing Galileo-ready chips. Today 17 companies, representing more than the 95% of global supply, produce Galileo-ready chips.

These include:

  • Key chipset manufacturers like Broadcom, Mediatek, STM, Intel, Qualcomm and uBlox.
  • Qualcomm, the market leader for smartphone chips such as Snapdragon, is already building Galileo into its devices, meaning that many smartphones are Galileo-ready.
  • STM, a leading European chipset manufacturer in the automotive sector, has announced Galileo-ready "Teseo" chips for vehicle telematics and navigation systems.

In September 2016, the Spanish mobile phone manufacturer BQ brought the first European- designed Galileo smartphone to market. Furthermore, by 2018, Galileo will be found in every new type-approved vehicle sold in Europe, enabling the eCall emergency response system. A growing list of Galileo compatible devices and chipsets that are available today can be found at www.useGalileo.eu.

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What is the socio-economic impact of Galileo?

The benefits of Galileo can be measured by their socio-economic impact on users, society and the environment.

Users will benefit from more reliable and accurate positioning, aiding their navigation, especially in cities and built-up areas. Features like the Galileo Search and Rescue service and integration into the eCall system will reduce emergency service response time in the case of distress or accidents.

Also, Galileo's accurate timing will help make synchronisation of banking and financial transactions more resilient as well as those used in telecommunication and energy distribution
networks that power the World economy.

Use of satellite navigation has helped drive world economic growth, particularly in high-tech industries, and experts predict that the global satellite navigation market will itself grow by more than 8% up until 2019. The additional resiliency provided by Galileo as the third global system, after GPS and GLONASS, is expected to enable a range of new applications and services that will benefit from increased positioning reliability and further drive economic growth in Europe and beyond.

The European GNSS Agency (GSA) has conducted additional assessments that show significant economic and environmental benefits from Galileo and GNSS use in the decade to come; these can be found on the GSA website.

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What performance can I expect from Galileo?

Measurement of Galileo's state of the art navigation signals shows that their performance is excellent.  Achievable accuracy depends on a number of factors, including the number of satellites and system optimisations, so while the Initial Services performance is expected to be at least as good as GPS, it will only improve as the system matures towards completion by 2020 Galileo. Further details of the performance (accuracy, etc) and availability have been published on the website of the European Service Centre found here.

Galileo's other freely available signals, using different frequencies, will give professional and more demanding users even better performance with suitably enabled receivers.

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When will Galileo Initial Services be declared?

Galileo Initial Services will be declared soon. [date to be confirmed].

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When do you expect all Galileo services to be available?

All of Galileo’s services will be available once the satellite constellation and ground infrastructure are completed, which is expected to happen by 2020. This will allow the full Galileo performance to be achieved and with maximum availability.

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When can I use Galileo on a mobile phone?

Soon, if not now! Leading smartphone chipset manufacturers like Qualcomm, Broadcom, Intel and Mediatek all have Galileo compatible products in their portfolios and the first Galileo- enabled smartphones have been on the market since autumn 2016; with many more to follow. It is very likely that all future smartphone and satellite navigation devices will be able to use Galileo as well as the other global satellite navigation systems.

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When can I use Galileo in my car?

From April 2018, all new type approved vehicles sold in Europe will be Galileo capable as part of a requirement to comply with the EU’s eCall emergency response system regulation. Galileo- enabled navigation devices for your car will also start coming on the market in 2017.

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Where can companies get information to help them develop products and services to take advantage of Galileo signals?

The European GNSS Service Centre (GSC) is the place to go for all things related to developing Galileo-capable products and services. The GSC can be contacted at: www.gsc-europa.eu

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How do I know whether my phone or navigation system is Galileo-enabled?

Current Galileo-enabled chipsets and smartphones are listed at: www.useGalileo.eu. This tool will be kept updated as the list continues to grow!

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How much do I have to pay for Galileo Initial Services?

The Galileo Initial Services will be free of charge and will remain so, even once the system becomes fully operational.

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Who provides the Galileo Initial Services?

While the European Commission is ultimately responsible for the Galileo programme, it is the European GNSS Agency (GSA) that is charged with providing the Initial Services. Under delegation from the European Commission, the European Space Agency (ESA) is responsible for deploying the system and providing technical support for operational tasks.

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Who can I contact for more information about the Galileo Initial Services?

The European GNSS Service Centre (GSC) is here to help all Galileo users. The GSC Helpdesk can be reached at http://www.gsc-europa.eu.

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Updated: Jan 17, 2017