Desi GPS on cellphones? Isroin talks with 2 big chipmakers
Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is in talks with two big chipset makers — US-based Qualcomm and Singapore’s Broadcom — to integrate cellphones with NavIC, India’s own version of GPS. Isro chairman K Sivan confirmed that the agency and a few mobile original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are holding discussions with the two companies for the development of a chip that will add NavIC capability to all types of mobiles. Discussions are also underway between Isro and several manufacturers for technical support.
“There are ongoing discussions, there is nothing conclusive so far,” Sivan told TOI. “This will be a huge game changer, but you must understand that we are still in the process.”Isro has launched eight Indian Regional Navigation Satellites (IRNS) for NavIC operations. Seven provide positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) services and one, IRNSS-1A, messaging services.
Fighter planes & vehicles
The talks with chipmakers were driven by the fact that cellphones hold the biggest commercial potential for NavIC, although Isro and the Indian Air Force are also working to equip fighter jets with the navigation system. Commercial vehicles registered after April 1, 2019 are mandated to also have NavIC trackers.
More than 30 Indian companies are already manufacturing NavIC-enabled vehicle trackers approved by Automotive Research Association of India or International Centre for Automotive Technology.Isro said its commercial arm has procured a multichip module (MCM) based on 55nm-technology, developed through Taiwan-based SkyTraQ, to enable Indian firms to manufacture NavIC messaging receiver and vehicle tracker units.
“We are looking at NavIC in autorickshaws carrying advertisements in the future,” Sivan said. “Advertisers currently do not know if an ad is reaching the target audience and how many places the auto goes. With NavIC, they will have the exact details.”
Analysts said there is a huge potential for NavIC in mobiles, but OEMs will look at what distinction it could offer.“India’s smartphone market has huge potential in terms of numbers because of a lot of new users,” said Shobhit Srivastava, an analyst who tracks the chipset market for Counterpoint Research. “In the context of Make in India and Design in India, the government will push firms to design and make the chipsets in the country. There are more than 650 million mobile users in India. Even basic phones now come with LTE [Long-Term Evolution, a 4G communications standard] and these chips can be inserted in them too.”
NavIC provides position, navigation and timing information that can be used for a range of civil and strategic applications and services, including terrestrial, aerial and marine navigation, precise timing, disaster management and alerts. It also aids in mapping, geodetic data capture, vehicle tracking and fleet management.It provides signals in a space covering India and surrounding regions. Globally, signal in space is provided by US’ GPS, GLONASS of Russia, Galileo of Europe and China’s Beiden.