FIG Vice President Matt Higgins Attends the Fifth Meeting of the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems   (ICG-5)

Turin, Italy, 18-22 October 2010 

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Participants of the meeting


The Fifth Meeting of the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (ICG) was held in Turin, Italy from 18 to 22 October 2010. The ICG has been formed as a result of recommendations of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Use of Outer Space (COPUOS), as ratified by the General Assembly of the UN. The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UN OOSA) acts as the secretariat for the ICG. It should also be noted that FIG has an MoU with UN OOSA.

The International Federation of Surveyors (FIG) is an Associate Member of the ICG and I was there as the FIG representative and as Co-Chair of Working Group D of the ICG. Mikael Lilje, the incoming Chair of FIG Commission 5 on Positioning and Measurement for the period 2011 to 2014, was also at the meeting as FIG’s representative on Task Force D1 on Geodetic References.

Joint Statement from ICG-5

At the end of each meeting, the ICG issues a Joint Statement outlining the highlights of the work of the ICG and any major developments. The overview presented by the Joint Statement from ICG-5 will not be repeated here but is included in this report as Attachment A.

Various presentations were made at the plenary sessions and working group sessions of the meeting and they form a very useful snap shot of the state of the art with the various GNSS and also with issues across key user groups. The Joint Statement, Working Group Reports and all of the Presentations made at ICG-5 are now available on the ICG Information portal.

Providers Forum Joint Statement from ICG-5

A key part of the membership of the ICG is the so-called “Provider’s Forum”. A summary of the 6th Meeting of the Provider’s Forum held in Turin is also available on the ICG Information portal.

Reports on the Status of All of the Major GNSS Sub-systems

The system providers are at the core of the overall work of the ICG and a feature of the first Plenary Session of the ICG is a series of presentations on the status of all of the major GNSS sub-systems. Presentations also outline the views of each of the system provider nations on the issues of Compatibility and Interoperability. System developments to note at ICG-5 include:

The Russian Federation continues on track to complete the GLONASS constellation in coming months:
  • Russia also presented their plans for transition to supplement their current FDMA signals with new CDMA signals;
  • The status of Russia’s Space Based Augmentation System (SBAS) known as the System for Differential Correction and Monitoring (SDCM) was also outlined;
  • An interesting development were several orbit configurations being considered for further augmentation to GLONASS to give better regional coverage over Russian territory, along the lines of Japan’s QZSS.
China P. R. presented the planned phases of Beidou including:
  • Phase 1: 2000 to 2003 saw the launch of 3 Geostationary orbit satellites (GEOs);
  • Phase 2: Commenced in 2007 with the launch of the first Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellite followed by three Phase 2 GEOs and then in August 2010, the first ever GNSS satellite launched into an Inclined GeoSynchronous Orbit (IGSO). Since the meeting the fourth GEO has been launched and another IGSO is planned for launch in December 2010, bringing the Phase 2 deployment to 7 satellites. The
    completion of Phase 2 is planned for 2012 and will bring the constellation to 5 GEOs, 5 IGSOs and 4 MEOs;
  • Phase 3: In 2012 Beidou will begin transition from regional coverage to a truly global GNSS with the constellation reaching 5 GEOs, 3 IGSOs and 27 MEOs in the 2018 to 2020 timeframe;
  • Latest plans for the Beidou signals structures were also presented;
  • China also released a video on Beidou, which can also be viewed at the Beidou website.
European Community presented progress with EGNOS (its SBAS) and its
Galileo GNSS:
  • Galileo seems to be back on track with the deployment of 4 Initial Orbit Validation Satellites and Ground Segment coming during 2011;
  • Initial Operational Capability with 18 satellites is planned for 2014/15 and Full Operational Capability with 30 satellites by 2016/17.
Japan presented their progress featuring the recent launch of their first QZSS satellite.
  • In a later presentation, JAXA also continued to show strong commitment to their proposal that was accepted by ICG in 2009 for a Multi-GNSS demonstration project in Asia and Oceania;
  • JAXA is working with a leading manufacturer to develop 30 receivers (216 channel, Javad Delta-G3Ts) capable of tracking the QZSS and other Multi-GNSS signals. Those will be made available for a reference station network as a key part of the demonstration project.
India presented an update on its space based augmentation to GPS known as GAGAN and the planned independent Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS)
  • GAGAN will have 3 GEO Satellites; 2 operational and 1 in-orbit spare navigation payload;
  • IRNSS Phase 1: 7 satellite constellation and corresponding ground segment with coverage of Indian territory and 1500 km beyond. 3 GEO and 4 IGSO satellites launched on indigenously developed Indian PSLV.
    • First satellite launch by second half of 2011.
    • Full constellation completion by mid 2014;
  • IRNSS Phase 2: Space segment proposed to be augmented with 4 more satellites to make an 11 satellite constellation with better coverage and accuracy.
Of course as well as all of these new developments, the USA continues to operate GPS at high service levels for performance and reliability. The USA presented a comprehensive overview of GPS status and future development as well as the significant array of infrastructure now in place to augment and improve GPS, including the Wide Area Augmentation System, Local Area Augmentation System, National DGPS System, National CORS Network and NASA's Global Differential GPS Service and TDRSS Augmentation Service for Satellites.
Other Issues to Note from the Meeting

There were many other interesting presentations, discussions and decisions at the meeting and the following is an outline of some that the author found particularly interesting:

  • As the use of GNSS grows and especially with increasing reliance for safety-of-life and mission critical applications, an issue that is gaining a lot of prominence in the thinking of system providers and user groups alike is that of interference (intentional and/or unintentional) to GNSS signals. It is likely that the ICG will continue to discuss and address such issues in the work of its Providers Forum and Working Groups;
  • The ICG Session on GNSS technology in the era of multi-systems receivers was particularly good and gave a nice overview of latest trends in receiver development especially from the GNSS system provider countries, including the growing capability in Russia, China and India.
    • A good example was the presentation from Unicore Communications of China on Beidou/Compass and its Unique Contributions to GNSS - New Applications in China. The company will be interesting to watch as a potential player in the emergence of high end professional GNSS equipment from China and for accelerating the availability of sophisticated capabilities in consumer devices.
    • The issue of improving consumer device capabilities was also addressed in the presentation from CSR (who offer the SIRFstar family of chips used in many consumer devices). Only a couple of years ago most manufacturers saw little need for sophisticated capabilities (like multi-GNSS or multi-frequency) in consumer GNSS equipment. However, CSR believe the driver for consumer devices is now switching from a need to improve sensitivity to a need to improve availability. That is seeing GLONASS capability in consumer devices and extending to hybrid approaches using cellular and WiFi positioning. CSR predict that the next trend after exhausting availability improvements is likely to be a desire for improved accuracy, leading to adaptable dual frequency consumer receivers (e.g. using L1 and L2 now but perhaps switching to L1 and L5 in future).
    • These presentations and others at ICG-5 showed that predictions about centimetre accuracy migrating from surveyors to consumers are not that far-fetched.
Meetings of Working Group D and Its Task Forces on Geodetic a d Timing References

Of note for the surveying and geodesy community is the continuation of the work of the Task Forces on Geodetic and Timing References. The Task Forces are convened under Working Group D, which is Co-Chaired by John Dow and Ruth Neilan (IAG/IGS) and myself. The detailed report of Working Group D activities at ICG-5 will be available on the ICG web site (same link as given above) and the following is a summary of the major issues covered during ICG-5.

Task Force D1 on Geodetic References

  • There were several presentations on Geodetic Reference issues (available on the web site);
    • “Latest Developments with ITRF 2008” (by Zuheir Altamimi, IERS, France);
    • “Recent Development of CGCS2000” (by Prof. YANG Yuanxi from CNAGA, China);
    • “Realization of Terrestrial Reference Frame for GNSS” (by Hongping ZHANG, Wuhan University, China);
    • “The WGS84 Instance of the Template for Global and Regional Reference System Description” (by Barbara Wiley, NGA, USA)
  • The presentations were followed by discussion of the progress by system providers in supplying templates describing their particular Geodetic Reference;
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  • The following templates (at least in draft form) were available by the end of the meeting:
    • World Geodetic System 1984 (WGS84);
    • Galileo Terrestrial Reference Frame (GTRF);
    • International Terrestrial Reference Frame
    • International Terrestrial Reference System

Task Force D2 on Time References

  • There were several presentations on Timing Reference issues (available on the web site
    • “COMPASS/BEIDOU Time System” (by Prof.HAN Chunhao, BGIC, China);
    • “The GPS Instance of the Template for GNSS GNSS Timescale Description” (by Ed Powers, USNO, USA).
  • The presentations were followed by discussion of the progress by system providers in supplying templates describing their particular Timing Reference;
  • There was also a session in the ICG plenary on timing issues, centred on the fact that some of the core timing components for the Galileo programme are being developed in the Turin area.

Working Group D Outcomes

  • The first key outcome from the meeting was that all System Providers that have not already submitted templates on their Geodetic and/or Timing References agreed to do so by the end of November 2010. The Working Group also discussed the next steps in its work following publication of the Templates on References, e.g. issues such as extending to best practices for system providers and whether the WG’s role extends further to issues like user education on Geodetic and Timing Reference topics;
  • The second key outcome from the meeting was a series of recommendations to the ICG on the following topics:
    • WG-D Recommendation #06 - New Name and Updated Work Plan
    • WG-D Recommendation #07 - Multi-GNSS Demonstration
    • WG-D Recommendation #08 - Adoption of the International Terrestrial Reference System by the General Conference on Weights and Measures in October 2011
    • WG-D Recommendation #09 - Liaison with Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services (RTCM)
    • WG-D Recommendation #10 - Retro-reflectors for Laser Ranging to GNSS Satellites
    • (Full wording of Recommendations available in the Working Group D Report to the ICG)
  • The third point to note was a very useful discussion about the future work of the Task Forces, which centred on the idea that ensuring interoperability is about more than simply documenting the existing Geodetic and Timing References used in each of the systems. An example that was discussed was on the templates were completed, the Task Forces should perhaps identify best practices among the current approaches and work towards some recommended practices to further improve interoperability in the future.
Next Meetings of the ICG

As outlined in the attached Joint Statement, Japan will host ICG-6 in Tokyo, from 5 to 9 September 2011. ICG also noted the expression of interest by China to host ICG-7 in 2012.

23 November 2010