So you may have heard that ISRO is in talks with manufacturers like Xiaomi and Qualcomm to drum up support for NaVIC – a localised version of the GPS (Global Positioning System) exclusive to India. What exactly is NaVIC? Well here’s everything we know about it so far.

  • NaVIC is the operational name for the IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System) developed by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization).
  • The technology is being developed to be independent of GPS – which uses a global constellation of satellites to determine a location – and is exclusive to India and neighbouring regions. 
  • It is tuned to provide accurate location data up to 1500 Kms around India. 
  • The system will be available in two variants: SPS (Standard Positioning Service) which will be available to civilians and RS (Restrictive Service) that uses encryption and is more accurate. RS is meant for use in defence applications and by armed forces. 
  • Currently, the system uses eight satellites: IRNSS-1A, IRNSS-1B, IRNSS-1C, IRNSS-1D, IRNSS-1E, IRNSS-1F, IRNSS-1G, IRNSS-1I. 
  • ISRO will add more satellites in the future with localised atomic clocks. 
  • NaVIC uses Geostationary satellites that are currently in high orbit, which make them less prone to obstructions. 
  • The satellites use dual-frequency L5 and S bands, making NaVIC more accurate than the GPS which uses a single frequency band. 
  • The SPS is accurate to 25 meters, which can be improved to 10 meters by combining cellular tower tracking data. 
  • ISRO says that the system will provide greater accuracy in dense urban environments where GPS tends to falter. 
  • Qualcomm promises faster TTFF (Time to first fix) using NaVIC. TTFF is a measure of the time it takes for a navigation system to acquire the first satellite signals and navigation data to calculate location. 
  • Qualcomm will start providing NaVIC compatible chipsets to OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) in late 2019 and we should start seeing the technology in consumer devices by early 2020. 
  • Since Qualcomm will be responsible for providing location data, apps like Google Maps won’t have to make any changes to support NaVIC. 
  • Initially, NaVIC will be available in mid-tier Snapdragon 600 and 700 series chipsets with support for a single L5 band. This will be expanded upon later with dual-frequency receivers that track both the L5 and S bands. 
  • MediaTek has also pledged support for NaVIC and has promised to deliver chipset samples to OEMs by Q3 2019, with first devices expected to hit shelves by Q1 2020. 
  • 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) is a global body that maintains and develops standards for mobile telephony. 3GPP has approved NaVIC for use with 4G, 5G and IoT (Internet of Things).   
  • Since support for NaVIC requires hardware changes on the chipset, the functionality cannot be extended to older Snapdragon series phones. Apple hasn’t extended support for NaVIC either, so don’t expect it to show up on iPhones anytime soon.

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