NavIC: Know about India's own GPS, now available on smartphone

Chinese handset maker Realme has launched a 5G smartphone model called Realme X50 Pro. At a starting price of Rs 37,999, this is one of the company's costliest phones in India. Apart from 5G, it has another special feature — India's own navigation system. Called NavIC, the desi navigation system has a lot of features. Here's all about it.

What is it
The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) is officially called NAVIC which is an acronym for NAVigation with Indian Constellation. The regional geo-positioning system has been designed in India by ISRO to provide accurate positioning in India and around the Indian mainland.

Why it has been built
When Pakistani troops took positions in Kargil in 1999, one of the first things Indian military sought was the global positioning system (GPS) data for the region. The space-based navigation system maintained by the US government would have provided vital information, but the US denied it to India. A need for an indigenous satellite navigation system was felt earlier, but the Kargil experience made the nation realise its importance.

When it was announced
The satellite system was first announced in 2007 and was meant to be fully functional by 2012 but it did not happen due to various constraints. The first of the seven satellite was sent into orbit in 2013.

What it is meant for
According to the ISRO, the IRNSS was developed for terrestrial, aerial and marine navigation, disaster management, vehicle tracking and fleet management and integration with mobile phones. It would provide Standard Positioning Service (SPS) to all users and Restricted Service (RS), which is an encrypted service for only authorised users. It was made mandatory for all commercial vehicles in India in 2019.

How accurate is it?
With seven satellites, NavIC is considered to be at par with US-based GPS, Russia's Glonass and Galileo developed by Europe. The IRNSS is expected to provide a position accuracy of better than 20 metre in the primary service area. On the other hand, 24-satellite based GPS enabled smartphones can be accurate to within a 4.9 meter radius. The accuracy will though worsen near buildings, bridges and trees. Cloud cover also impacts GPS' accuracy. In some GPS receivers, the accuracy can be as good as 11.8 inches. However, it is being said that the NavIC system uses S and L bands, unlike GPS which uses only L band. This, as per reports, helps NavIC to be more accurate than GPS.

Will more phones support NavIC
Qualcomm has already created three chipsets with NavIC support which means more phones may soon be launched in India with NavIC support.