China launches the last satellite to complete the GPS

China launched the last satellite in its homegrown geolocation system on Tuesday, completing a network designed for American GPS as it pushed for a market share in the profitable region.

A live broadcast on television showed a rocket fired by a satellite from the foothills of southwestern China, which the state media identified as another landmark in the state space program.

The Beedou system - named after the Chinese word for Big Dipper constellations - operates on a network of about 30 satellites and competes with the US's Global Positioning System (GPS), Russia's GLONASS and the European Union's Galileo.

"I think the Bidoo-3 system is a big phenomenon," said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

"This is China's main investment and makes China independent of the US and European systems."

The final satellite, the Beedou-3GEO3, helps improve the accuracy of the network.

China began building the system in the early 1990s to navigate cars, fishing boats and military tankers using data from country satellites.

This service can now be used on millions of mobile phones to search and guide taxis to nearby restaurants, petrol stations or theaters.

In 2012, Beedou’s coverage entered commercial use in the Asia-Pacific region, which will become available worldwide in 2018.

According to Chinese media, about 120 countries, including Pakistan and Thailand, use port traffic monitoring, post-disaster relief operations and other utilities.

Beijing is relying on its trillion-dollar Belt and Road Global Infrastructure project to gain market share with GPS to persuade other countries to use their technology.

The Chinese geolocation services market is estimated to cost 400 billion yuan ($ 56.4 billion) this year, a senior official said.

According to San Francisco-based Grand View Research, the global geolocation services market is expected to grow to $ 146.4 billion by 2025.

- Accuracy

Analysts say Beedo is already outperforming GPS, but has to go a long way before overtaking its US counterpart as the world's leading geolocation system.

McDowell said he did not think Beedo could suppress GPS in the next 10 or 20 years.

Carter Palmer, a space systems analyst at US-based consultancy Forecast International, said Beaudo's credibility is still questionable, but its accuracy is a big selling point.

"What I'm looking at is (customers) using more systems, including Beaudou, to have more accurate satellite navigation," he said.

The Chinese military will also benefit from the completion of the Beedou network.

China has poured nearly $ 10 billion into the Beaudou system to secure the country's military communications networks and to prevent it from collapsing.

"Technically, Beaudou can replace GPS, for example during the war, if the United States stops using GPS in China," said Chen Lan, Chinese expert on the space program.

It is also used to guide Chinese military missiles and fly drones.

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