Explanation: NavIC, the Indian alternative to the GPS navigation system

Illustration shows the NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation), Apple, Xiaomi, Samsung, Mediatek and Qualcomm logos near the satellite model placed on the map in this illustration taken September 25, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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NEW DELHI, Sept 26 (Reuters) – India’s government is pushing smartphone makers to enable support for its NavIC navigation system in new devices sold in the country from next year, a move that has scared industry due to additional costs and tight deadlines. .

Below are the details of how NavIC was created, why India wants smartphone makers to adopt it, and how the system compares to other global or regional navigation systems.


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NavIC, or Navigation with Indian Constellation, is an independent and autonomous satellite navigation system developed by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

NavIC was originally approved in 2006 at a cost of $174 million. It was to be completed at the end of 2011, but only became operational in 2018.

NavIC consists of eight satellites and covers the entire landmass of India and up to 1,500 km (930 miles) from its borders.

Currently the use of NavIC is limited. It is used in public vehicle tracking in India, to provide emergency alerts to fishermen venturing into deep waters where there is no connectivity to the terrestrial network, and to track and provide information relating to natural disasters.

Enabling it in smartphones is the next step India is pushing for.


The main difference is the usable area covered by these systems. GPS caters to users all over the world and its satellites circle the earth twice a day, while NavIC is currently in use in India and adjoining regions.

Like GPS, there are three other navigation systems that have global coverage – European Union’s Galileo, Russia’s GLONASS, and China’s Beidou. QZSS, operated by Japan, is another regional navigation system covering the Asia-Oceania region, with a focus on Japan.

India’s draft satellite navigation policy of 2021 said the government would strive “to expand coverage from regional to global” to ensure the availability of the NavIC signal in any part of the world.

NavIC is “as good as US GPS in positional accuracy,” the Indian government said in August.


India claims that NavIC is designed with the aim of removing reliance on foreign satellite systems for the needs of navigation services, especially for “strategic sectors”.

According to India, relying on systems such as GPS and GLONASS is not always reliable as these are operated by the defense agencies of the respective nations and there is a possibility of civil services being degraded or refused.

“NavIC is an indigenous positioning system which is under Indian control. There is no risk that the service will be withdrawn or denied in any given situation,” the government said in 2021.

India also wants to encourage its ministries to use NavIC applications to promote local industry engaged in the development of indigenous solutions based on NavIC.

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Reporting by Munsif Vengattil and Aditya Kalra in New Delhi; Editing by Mike Collett-White and Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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