Move set to offer boost for homegrown BeiDou system
As part of the goal to provide basic services to regions along the route of the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative, China unveiled the B&R Satellite Application Alliance to foster successful applications and proliferation of its homegrown BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) at an industry seminar in Beijing on Monday.
China will launch six to eight satellites to form a global network in the second half of this year and accomplish the launch of 18 satellites by around 2018 to serve countries along the B&R initiative, according to a White Paper for the development of the BDS published in June 16, 2016.
The alliance was set up under the guidance of the International Cooperation Centre of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), with about 40 founding members.
The NDRC is the nation's top economic planning agency.
"The setting up of the alliance will allow the industry to tap the resources of China's international capacity cooperation mechanism and gain access to the project database, so we can study these potential projects and think of ways to apply the BDS," Fan Jingsheng, deputy secretary general of the Global Navigation Satellite System and Location-based Services Association of China (GLAC), told the Global Times Monday.
"The alliance will consolidate resources from related sectors, provide spatial-temporal information, and facilitate the construction and improve the operating efficiency of the projects in B&R international corridors and sea routes," Fan said.
In concrete terms, the BDS will facilitate the building of transportation infrastructure, international transportation, informatization of seaborne logistics, security of oil and gas pipelines, and the construction of cross-border power transmission and fiber optic networks.
China's satellite navigation industry has high hopes for the BDS, and many experts believe that it can be the third "national business card," following China's successful development of high-speed trains and homegrown nuclear technology.
Initiated in 1994, the BDS project equals the US-developed Global Positioning System (GPS) in terms of precision performance, and is even slightly better in the Asia-Pacific region.
However, China's late start - some 20 years after the US version - means that the user base and brand recognition is well behind that of GPS, according to experts.
User base and customer demand is vital for the development of the BDS because it will push the scientists and engineers to improve the system, Fan said.
Xie Yangjun, an NDRC official involved with fostering international cooperation in the B&R regions, told the Global Times Monday that many companies that have already expanded overseas and are in the NDRC database for international capacity cooperation will be the customers that use it, and this will help the system.
"Yes, some countries have geopolitical concerns. But some trust China's offering. They are becoming the first customers for the BDS," Xie said.
Currently, the BDS has already expanded its services to Pakistan, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Nepal, Malaysia, Brunei, Myanmar, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, according to a document provided by Fan.
In October 2016, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence and the NDRC jointly issued a guideline policy on speeding up the building of a B&R spatial-temporal information corridor.
The policy encouraged private capital to participate in the B&R spatial-temporal information corridor and called for central and local fiscal support for eligible projects.
The financial sources for it include the Silk Road Fund and a number of international funds, as well as credit from policy banks such as the China Development Bank. The policy also called for a study into setting up an application fund for such a corridor in a market-orientated fashion. "The stage has been set up, and now what matters is that we propose to do something. Once we start doing something, financial support will follow," Fan said.