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GPSIA Statement on

Foreign GNSS Satellite Signals Used in Receivers


March 19, 2024

Washington, DC

Every day, technologies incorporating signals from Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) improve our lives. The United States’ GNSS constellation, called the Global Positioning System (GPS), is an irreplaceable part of our national infrastructure and public safety systems, and delivers countless benefits to users worldwide. 


It is standard practice in the global navigation technology market to design chipsets and receivers that hear one-way signals from multiple Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) constellations, including the United States’ GPS, the EU’s Galileo system, China’s BeiDou system, and Russia’s GLONASS system. Japan’s QZSS and India’s NavIC are also used. 


GPSIA Member companies take national security concerns extremely seriously.

GPSIA Member companies are committed to maintaining both security and accuracy in the design and operation of their products. These matters are closely and continually monitored, and companies are prepared to take swift action to address any concerns as they arise. 


GPSIA applauds policymakers’ efforts to ensure that the U.S. communications ecosystem is free from foreign threats. We share that goal, which is why devices receiving one-way signals[1] from a foreign GNSS system do not pose any known security threats, nor have any been identified. The satellites cannot access a user’s personal data, including geolocation data. The governments operating GNSS satellites “broadcast” signals free of charge, with no financial benefits accruing to those governments.


Multi-Constellation Receivers are Secure and Robust.

Today’s sophisticated receiver technology provides security benefits for customers around the world. Receivers using multi-constellation signals can recognize if one signal behaves differently than those coming from other constellations (whether due to system glitches or potentially nefarious reasons), discerning which signals to trust and which to discard. 


For this reason, governments operating GNSS satellites are also disincentivized to use satellites to spoof or otherwise disrupt receivers. This is because signals transmitted one-way from GNSS satellites are broadly available to many receivers that are within the satellite’s extremely large signal “footprint,” and intentional “spoofing” or disruption would be quickly identified. 


Receivers merely “hearing” one-way signals “broadcast” from foreign GNSS constellations do not pose a known security threat. There have been no known instances of security issues for users from the receipt and use of these signals by domestic- and foreign-based devices. 


This scenario is very different from the ongoing instances of jamming and spoofing from terrestrial transmitters. Recent examples of jamming and spoofing of GNSS signals in conflict areas (such as Ukraine) do not involve the use of satellite signals but rather happen on the ground. Jamming GNSS signals through high-powered terrestrial transmitters overwhelm and displace much fainter GNSS signals. Similarly, “spoofing” involves use of terrestrial transmitters to send inaccurate location information. 


In short, the fact that devices rely on multiple GNSS providers, some of which are foreign, is a security strength and not a weakness of their design. Indeed, exclusive reliance on fewer satellite constellations could potentially incentivize adversaries to target those systems for hostile action.


Maintaining Global Leadership in GNSS Chipset and Receiver Technology Requires Multiple Global Navigation Satellite Systems Signals.

The ability to use signals from multiple GNSS constellations is essential to maintain the competitiveness of U.S. industry and its global technology leadership. The more satellites a receiver can “hear,” the greater the accuracy – a critical performance measure distinguishing chipset and receiver brands in a highly competitive field. 


According to ABI Research, a technology intelligence firm, 87% of the global receiver market supported three or more GNSS constellations in 2021. By 2026, 95% of the market will do so. By 2033, the EU Agency for the Space Programme estimates that over eight (8) billion GNSS devices will be in use across the world. 

Domestic manufacturers of receivers and chipsets would cede leadership and be at a significant disadvantage in the global market if the U.S. Government were to prohibit use of signals from certain foreign GNSS constellations. 


Evaluating the Regulatory Landscape.

GPSIA Member companies take regulatory compliance extremely seriously and are committed to working closely with policymakers, including at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to ensure compliance with applicable regulations. As a sign of our commitment, GPSIA and its Member companies have been fully transparent in filings and in meetings with the FCC on the use of multiple constellations. Over the decades these rules have been in effect, the FCC has never acted against operators of the billions of receivers in operation under its rules applying to “earth stations.”


The historical evolution of the FCC’s rules and policies also provides important context for understanding the GNSS satellite, chipset, and receiver markets. Today’s rules date back to the 1970s when “earth stations” were large "gateway" dishes used to receive video programming or communications signals to support communications services. 


GPSIA notes that the approval process for use of foreign signals was created to advance U.S. trade policies, not to guard against security threats. As a result, the U.S. government created a process in 2011 that could only be initiated by the foreign government operating the GNSS constellation – not companies or individuals. When the Galileo GNSS satellite constellation operated by the European Union participated in the process (approved by the FCC in 2018), it took years to complete. 


GPSIA Members commented in that proceeding that the Commission’s rules in this arena were outdated and requested that they be updated. In the 2018 Galileo decision, then-Commissioner, now Chairwoman Rosenworcel acknowledged these concerns and thoughtfully observed that “[t]echnology has gotten ahead of our approval policies and it’s time for a true-up.” 


To Summarize.

GPSIA applauds policymakers’ efforts to ensure that the U.S. communications ecosystem is free from foreign threats. Devices receiving signals from a foreign GNSS system do not pose any known threat. It is therefore time for U.S. regulations to be updated to reflect technological innovations, and geopolitical and marketplace realities. GPSIA and its Member companies stand ready to work with lawmakers and regulators to consider long-overdue updates in this area.


[1] BeiDou offers a two-way Search and Rescue messaging capability but that feature has not been added to GPSIA Member company chipsets and receivers.


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