Why India Wants Its Own Satellite Navigation Tech? : Daily Current Affairs

Date: 01/10/2022

Relevance: GS-3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

Key Phrases: Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services, MapmyIndia, Global Positioning System, Navigation with Indian Constellation, or NavIC, Indian Satellite Navigation Policy - 2021 (SATNAV Policy - 2021).

Why in News?

  • India has started applying pressure on phone-makers to integrate its home-grown navigation system called NavIC.
  • So far, GPS or Global Positioning System, owned by the US government, has been one of the most popular satellite-based navigation systems in India and the world.
  • Meanwhile, Apple, Samsung, and other smartphone makers seem to be worried about this due to “additional costs” and “tight deadlines”.

What is NavIC and why does India need it?

  • Navigation apps and mobiles in India use Global Positioning System (GPS), which is owned by the US government and operated by the US Air Force.
  • India wants to reduce its dependence on such technology from foreign countries as the use of GPS can be denied due to geopolitics and is not guaranteed in hostile situations. For example, in 1999, the US refused an Indian request for GPS data to track Pakistani troops in Kargil.
  • Ever since, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has been working on Navigation with Indian Constellation, or NavIC.
  • NavIC was originally approved in 2006 and became operational in 2018.
  • It covers India and a region extending up to 1,500 km beyond the Indian mainland.
  • NavIC is recognized by the International Maritime Organization as part of the World-Wide Radio Navigation System, enabling its use in areas like maritime navigation.
  • Three more navigational systems offer global coverage like the GPS which include Galileo from the European Union, Russia-owned GLONASS, and China’s Beidou.

NavIC vs GPS systems:

  • The GPS needs 24 operational satellites and has nearly 31 satellites in orbit.
  • All 55 satellites are geosynchronous satellites, which means that they do not remain stationary in space regarding the revolving earth.
  • Navic has 3 geostationary satellites and 4 geosynchronous satellites which are placed in much higher orbits due to which the signal is less prone to obstructions.
  • The GPS uses a single frequency band while the NavIC satellites use dual frequency bands (L5-band and S-band), which is why the system is relatively more accurate than GPS.
  • NavIC is designed to provide an absolute position accuracy of fewer than 10 meters on the Indian landmass and less than 20 meters on the Indian Ocean.

How Government Is Pushing NavIC Adoption?

  • NavIC is already being used in public vehicle tracking systems in India since it allows enforcement agencies to monitor vehicles, which is not possible with international systems like GPS.
  • In April 2019, the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways made NavIC-based vehicle trackers mandatory for all commercial vehicles in the country.
  • In August 2021, DGCA updated the drone rules for India under which it became mandatory to use made-in-India technologies, including NavIC.
  • A new draft policy in India seeks to foster global use of its NavIC satellite navigation system.
  • The draft Indian Satellite Navigation Policy 2021 (SATNAV Policy 2021) is part of the reforms of ISRO.

Indian Satellite Navigation Policy 2021 (SATNAV Policy 2021)

  • The objective of the policy is to ensure the continuous availability of free-to-air navigation signals for civilian uses and secured navigation signals for strategic uses in the defined coverage area.
  • For aviation safety in the defined coverage area, the draft ensures guaranteed and continuous availability of the Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS).
  • The draft also aims to focus on technology development for enhancing the navigation satellite systems and work towards compatibility and interoperability of Indian satellite navigation and augmentation signals with other Global Navigation Satellite Systems(GNSS).
  • Further, to intensify the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, the draft ensures continuity of NavIC and GAGAN services, upgrading the system and ensuring the capability to operate in conjecture with other GNSS/SBAS.

What are the other uses of NavIC?

  • The app, jointly developed by ISRO, Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) and MapmyIndia, alerts fishermen who venture into deep seas about their location and distance from the international maritime boundary.
  • NavIC is used to track public vehicles and alert fishermen.
  • MapmyIndia also builds and sells various NavIC-enabled internet of things devices.
  • NavIC’s applications can extend to disaster management, vehicle tracking and fleet management, as a navigation assistant to hikers and travellers, and as navigation for drivers.  For instance, toll systems could become NavIC-based.

Does India’s Geospatial policy allow foreign satellite systems to collect superfine data?

  • India’s Geospatial policy doesn’t allow foreign satellite systems to collect superfine data. For example, street information that’s accurate to less than a metre.
  • They can only source this data from Indian navigation service providers like MapmyIndia.
  • This means, if Google Maps wants to show the location of any place with pinpoint accuracy, it may have to start licensing the sub-1 metre mapping from someone like MapmyIndia which uses NavIC for its mapping needs.

What are the Concerns of Smartphone Makers?

  • The smartphone makers, including Apple, Xiaomi, and Samsung fear that enabling NavIC support in their devices would increase production costs significantly.
  • Besides, the January 2023 deadline seems too strict for the companies as they claim implementing such technology would require “more testing clearances.”
  • Moreover, supporting NavIC requires new chipsets and other hardware changes, and most companies are “already prepared for models to be launched in 2024.” and thus, implementing NavIC on smartphones would not be feasible until 2025.
  • Another concern of tech companies is related to the frequency on which the NavIC system operates.
  • Currently, the Indian government relies on the L5 satellite frequency, which is much less common for smartphones.
  • Several smartphones, including iPhone, already support GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, and BeiDou.
  • However, these systems were launched long before NavIC, and it took some time for smartphone makers to enable support for these systems in their devices.


  • NavIC is an indigenous positioning system that is under Indian control.
  • There is no risk of the service being withdrawn or denied in a given situation and thus, NavIC will operate even when there are geopolitical tensions in the future.
  • Also, with the local system in place, the navigation accuracy is bound to be better.
  • Indian government thus, wants to encourage its ministries to use NavIC applications to promote local industry engaged in developing indigenous NavIC-based solutions.

Source: Live-Mint

Mains Question:

Q. India has started applying pressure on phone-makers to integrate its home-grown navigation system called NavIC. What is NavIC and why does India need it? What advantages does it offer over GPS? (150 words).