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Galileo: Secure satellite navigation for emergency and security services

A special Galileo navigation service will be set up for better management of critical transport and emergency services, better law enforcement (police), improved internal security (border control) and safer peace missions.

These are the core objectives of a European Commission proposal published last week on the Public Regulated Service (PRS) access rules.

Using highly encrypted signals, PRS will offer protection against threats to infrastructures dependent on satellite navigation technology so that PRS users can receive vital, often life-saving, information even when other infrastructures become unavailable.

PRS is one of the important features of Galileo that adds value compared to other satellite navigation systems.  The access to PRS will be limited to authorised governmental bodies.

Antonio Tajani, European Commission Vice-President in charge of Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: "The safety and security of each and every European citizen lies at the heart of this proposal. Given our increasing reliance on satellite navigation infrastructures, there is an urgent need to ensure that key services, such as our police forces and rescue and emergency services, continue to function in moments of crisis, terrorist threat or disaster. Furthermore, the market for PRS applications offers an important opportunity for Europe's entrepreneurs".

Galileo is Europe's initiative for a state-of-the-art global satellite navigation system, providing a highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning service. It will offer a total of five services, the PRS being one of these, the others being the Open Service, the Search-and-Rescue Service, the Safety-of-Life Service and the Commercial Service. Satellite navigation is about providing accurate positioning, but also about providing a secure, robust and reliable service at all times. Today’s proposal outlines a strict control framework for the implementation of the PRS access rules.

PRS protects against threats

The development of PRS, with its highly robust encrypted signals, is a response to an increase in threats to infrastructures dependent on satellite navigation technology. PRS secures these infrastructures against such threats, often called spoofing. Spoofing can distort signals guiding a car or a ship, and provide inaccurate positioning to e.g. a police car or an ambulance. Small jamming devices are now widely available to buy on the internet with the potential to cause damage in the wrong hands. PRS could be used in crisis situations where it is important that emergency and security services continue to function even when other services have been cut as part of security measures.

PRS is restricted to public users

Galileo is a civil system under civilian control. Decisions for the use of PRS and its application lie with each Member State. PRS use will be controlled and restricted to authorised governmental bodies in the EU Member States and the European institutions. Third countries and international organisations who conclude the appropriate agreements with the European Union may qualify to use the service.

Business opportunities and better services to citizens

The manufacture of the PRS receivers will create business opportunities for European industry and entrepreneurs. European citizens will benefit indirectly from better and safer emergency and security services as a result of PRS.

Tight control framework to ensure trust

For Member States' governments to place their trust in PRS, its security must be maintained. This will be done through the establishment of a control framework covering the following:

  • users of the service;

  • the production of PRS receivers;

  • the potential export of PRS receivers.

Each Member State wishing to use PRS will set up a "Responsible PRS Authority". This authority will manage and control end-users as well as the manufacture of PRS receivers. It will also ensure adherence to clearly-defined security standards.

Coordination on a European level will guarantee consistency and conformity with the high level of security required.

The legislative proposal will be forwarded to the European Parliament and the Council for approval as part of the ordinary legislative procedure. If approved, the PRS could be available in 2014, when Galileo is expected to become operational, together with two other initial Galileo services, the Open Service and the Search-And-Rescue Service.

Background: Why Europe needs Galileo

Galileo guarantees Europe's independence in satellite navigation, a sector that has become critical for its economy and for the well-being of its citizens. Galileo also helps Europe develop its know-how in the space, receivers and applications sectors, securing economic revenues and jobs. The combination of Galileo and GPS signals in dual receivers will open the door to new applications that require a higher level of precision than available today with GPS alone.

Galileo is expected to deliver €90 billion to the European economy over a period of about 12 years in terms of additional revenues for the industry and in terms of public benefits, not counting the benefit of independence.

More information

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