Thailand to use China's GPS system

Thailand to use China's GPS system

Thailand has become the first overseas client of Beidou - China's home-made satellite navigation network designed to challenge the dominance of the American GPS array.

The carrier rocket, Long March 3-A, blasts off from the Xichang Satellite Launching Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province Sunday, May 25, 2003. The rocket successfully put China's third Beidou navigation and positioning satellite into orbit indicating China has completed its own satellite navigation and positioning system. Ten years on, Thailand has reportedly become the first overseas client of Beidou. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Li Gang)

According to the South China Morning Post, China National Radio said a 2 billion yuan (9.5 billion baht) agreement to promote the use of Beidou in Thailand's public sector was signed in Bangkok last week. The system will be used in disaster relief, power distribution and transport, among other areas. 

A Beidou expert at Wuhan University said the Chinese government had chosen to promote its satellite navigation network to Thailand for strategic reasons.

He said Thailand is a major ally of the US in Asia and its public sector and military rely heavily on GPS for precise positioning.

"Our government is eager to show the Thais that Beidou can do anything GPS does," the researcher said. "In some areas it can do even better.

"If Thailand can embrace Beidou, other countries may follow and the Americans' political, economic and military power in the region will be reduced."

According to the agreement, China will not only build a national remote sensing system based on Beidou for Thailand, but a large satellite ground station with an industrial park for the development and production of Beidou receivers for the wider Southeast Asian market.

The Chinese government will meet most of the 2 billion yuan cost of doing this, the researcher said.

Although details of the agreement were not released, a memorandum signed by China and Thailand last year showed that the project was part of China's foreign aid programme.

Liu Junyi, deputy director of the Chinese Wuhan Information Technology Outsourcing Service and Research Centre, which is in charge of the project's implementation, told the People's Daily website that promotion and application in Southeast Asia was crucial for Beidou.

"To co-operate with Thailand… is to bring Beidou to Southeast Asia," he said.

Industry experts said Beijing had no choice but to pay a huge subsidy for the project because there was little trust in Beidou outside China.

Since the official launch of its regional service last year, Beidou has struggled in the domestic Chinese market due to the dominance of GPS, except for in the military and public sectors, and a few small commercial sectors such as fishing. 

Its expansion overseas has been hampered by unfamiliarity with the technology and a lack of receivers.

Beidou is still a regional system, covering most countries in the Asia-Pacific region, but it is expected to provide global service by 2020 with more than 30 satellites in operation.

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