US and EU to Share Civil GPS Standard

Today, the United States and the European Union have decided to share a common standard for their next-generation geo-positioning systems, the EU's Galileo Open Service and the US's GPS IIIA. Called MBOC, it will allow companies to develop one type of receiver compatible with both networks. Will this affect your life today?

In a word: no. The Galileo program means nothing but a bunch of protocols and plans at this point, with eurocrats still scrambling to fix the mess that eight euro companies left behind them. At this point, there's only one Galileo test satellite in orbit. The other one is grounded for technical reasons and the German Transport Minister was recently quoted saying "Galileo is in a dead-end street."

It doesn't matter, because according to the European Commission, the agreement "underscores Europe's commitment to interoperability between Galileo and GPS and to managing the Galileo programme in an innovative partnership with the US." Translated from euro-yaddayadda: "we are oh-so-glad that the US is trying to save our butts once again."

The EC director general Matthias Ruete went even further, saying the agreement should "facilitate the rapid acceptance of Galileo in global markets side by side with GPS." That would be great, if we were in 2035 and there was a Galileo system anywhere.

So whether you are American or European, rest at peace tonight knowing that the next time you travel around other countries your geo-positioning kit will work perfectly. Just like it has been working since the beginning, without this insignificant-for-now agreement. Disclaimer: the author of this post is European and lives/enjoys/suffers Europe as much as the next European. [Business Week and Forbes]