back to article Report estimates cost of disruption to GPS in UK would be £1bn per day

The UK stands to lose £1bn per day in the event of a major disruption to the Global Positioning System (GPS), according to a government report. Emergency services would also be severely affected and struggle to cope with demand. Longer emergency calls, less efficient dispatch, navigation, and congested roads would mean a total …

  1. oxfordmale78

    Of course the UK could just use the EU’s Galileo GPS system that went live in December.....oh wait, post-Brexit the UK will now have to negotiate, and pay for access to it

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I don't think it's a subscription service so they're out of luck there, but I recon contributing to that is part of the Brexit "divorce settlement"..

      1. big_D Silver badge

        The manufacturers probably have to pay a per-device licence, it won't affect end users, whether the UK is in the EU or not.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      oh wait, post-Brexit the UK will now have to negotiate, and pay for access to it

      They could also use GLONASS (as many phones have for years,) and from 2020 most will probably also have the hardware for Beidou 2. For civil use they'd just use the system any licence is paid on hardware.

      But planning against the loss of a single sat nav system is a big bit stupid. If the GPS sats are clobbered by a Carrington event, then so will all other sats be. Same with some unexpectedly calamitous space debris or meteorite shower event, or even tit-for-tax satellite shoot downs. So preparing a Plan B needs to assume that satellite coverage is simply unavailable.

      Another commentard has made the point about the use of wifi and phone triangulation or mast-location, and that's not so accurate, but I suspect that combining that with inertial navigation to fill in the gaps would be an acceptable alternative. If it were a Carrington event, then there is a problem that the ground and mobile telephony or power systems might have a few other things to worry about.

      Maybe, just maybe, we'd have to cope without it? Hipsters and milennials would be dead in days, unable to find convenience stores or craft coffee shops. Those of us able to read a map might survive a lot longer.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Sure, relying on a Russian and Chinese controlled system have no issues, right?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @LDS

          "relying on a Russian and Chinese controlled system have no issues, right?

          Only if they withhold their use. Since we're talking about civil infrastructure, I can't see the problem - and many devices already use a mix of GPS and GLONASS.

      2. James 51 Silver badge

        @winger, if you read the article you'd know there are issues with docking large ships (cause oil tankers crashing in their dock is no big deal) and aumblance drivers not being able to make it to where they are needed as quickly as possible. We could do without just as we could do without other benefits of technology but that doesn't mean it will be a pleasent experience.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          if you read the article you'd know there are issues with docking large ships

          @James51: We've had manually controlled supertankers for many decades. The idea that lack of GPS would be an insurmountable problem is nonsense. You're also overlooking the fact that reliable accuracy of GPS is about 4m. If you were relying on that sort of accuracy to berth a large vessel, you'll find that rather too often the gangplank and cranes don't reach, or that you've wiped a hole twenty five feet deep in the side of the vessel.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "aumblance drivers not being able to make it to where they are needed as quickly as possible."

          Erm. No.

          Lack of GPS is NOT the reason why ambulance drivers would not be able to make it ASAP.

          There are two primary reasons (in order of importance) :

          (a) I met someone working on the pointy end of the NHS (not a paramedic, but near enough) in a large city (not London).

          "Red 1" calls (most serious) have a target response time of 8 minutes to site.

          Number of times "someone" recalled reaching site in 8 minutes ? Zero (or near enough).

          Main reason why ? The realities of traffic in a city ... flashing blue lights and lots of noise only get you so far !

          Corbynistas may well tell you that this would all be fixed under Labour who would throw yet more money at the NHS. But the reality is it would not. It takes a long time (and quite a bit of money) to train up a paremedic, and that's before extra time spent training your newly trained paramedic how to drive on blues. Add to that, the cost of buying, equipping and maintaining additional ambulances.

          (b) The satnav system the NHS use is far from the pinnacle of perfection. I have witnessed, on more than one occasion, an ambulance reaching the destination street and screaming down to one end of a road, only for the crew to realise they found themselves at the wrong end ... cue a u-turn and return back to the right spot.

          In summary:

          The reality is that you are always going to have a finite level of paramedics and a finite level of ambulances, no matter who is in government.

          Hence the reason why everyone should know how to do CPR and everyone should be able to use an AED (and have one nearby). Because to have the best chance of positive outcome, an AED shold be on that chest within 4 minutes max .... no ambulance is going to be with you in 4 minutes unless you live or work next door !

          The same goes for recognising stroke. The more people trained in recognition, the faster the ambulance gets called, the greater the chance of meeting the golden hour !

          Same could be said for a variety of other emergencies. If you haven't done at least the basic one-day training, go do so NOW !

          1. Adam 52 Silver badge

            "Main reason why ? The realities of traffic in a city ... flashing blue lights and lots of noise only get you so far"

            If you have enough people you can distribute them more densely. In 2002 I could almost guarantee that response time - with an HGV not a car - across all of Devon and Cornwall. Cuts and closure of stations has increased that now.

            "extra time spent training your newly trained paramedic how to drive on blues."

            Two week course.

            "The satnav system the NHS use is far from the pinnacle of perfection"

            It's a damn site better than the dog-eared map book that the Police get issued with.

            "finite level of paramedics and a finite level of ambulances,"

            Yes, but you only need a few more to give excellent coverage. And more sensible use of resources (none of this "protecting the front line" that means the front line spends 80% of the time away from the front line doing admin). There is a truly awful story of Ambulance service politics that I can't tell. Hopefully once the coroner has ruled it'll be public.

            1. Kernel

              While you've addressed the issues raised, none of them are at all relevant - nobody will be calling ambulance, police or any other emergency services unless they physically turn up and knock on the station door.

              The timing signals needed to make a digital 'phone network function are derived from and synchronised by GPS units - without them the network will degrade to a non-functioning noise generation device.

              1. sitta_europea

                [quote]The timing signals needed to make a digital 'phone network function are derived from and synchronised by GPS units - without them the network will degrade to a non-functioning noise generation device.[/quote]

                It's ALREADY non-functioning. The nearest my 'phone can get to the right time is about five minutes.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "Two week course."

              Remind me ....after how many years training as a paramedic first ? ;-)

          2. sitta_europea

            [quote]The same goes for recognising stroke. The more people trained in recognition, the faster the ambulance gets called, the greater the chance of meeting the golden hour ![/quote]

            Yeah, right.

            My sister's friend had a brain aneurism.

            The ambulance + paramedic jobsworths were there in 20 minutes. They insisted that the friend's daughter spend the next twenty minutes cleaning the patient before they'd even lift her onto the stretcher. The patient suffered serious brain damage.

      3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        I wondered if enough Galileo satellites would be behind the Earth's shadow in a Carrington Event or a Gamma Ray Burst to keep the system working when they reappeared. Upon checking - they fly at very roughly 4 Earth radiuses altitude, so the answer to the question is "probably not". I haven't investigated the other systems.

        1. Mark #255
          Boffin

          Carrington events mess up the ionosphere

          Coronal Mass Ejections (that's what the Carrington event was) have the potential to send the ionosphere into scintillation (it's what makes stars appear to twinkle) for a few days after impacting the Earth's magnetosphere.

          The GPS receiver picks up the signals, but they're being continually, and rapidly, altered in terms of the apparent path length they've travelled from the satellites. This means either very poor resolution, or (more likely) that the GPS signal is told to send a Do Not Use flag until the ionosphere has settled down.

      4. Craig 2

        Hipsters and milennials would be dead in days, unable to find a stream or river without a map. Those of us relying on knowledge handed down by our elders might survive a lot longer.

        Luddite much?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Luddite much?

          Go trim your beard before it trails in your soya latte macchiato and drips down your check shirt.

          1. W4YBO

            Hipsters?!?

            As one who has been sporting a full beard since I was seventeen (caused great consternation with the principal in high school,) and wearing plaid flannel shirts nearly every day that the high will be less than 45°F, I only have one word for hipsters... Damn!

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Hipsters?!?

              >every day that the high will be less than 45°F

              We had a day like that four winters or so ago which is why I don't own much flannel any more (beard of course, so much less work than shaving every day lol). Now the rest of this week being 45 C woof. Still never having to shovel snow off my sidewalk or scrape my car windows in the morning makes it worth it.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Hipsters and milennials would be dead in days, unable to find a stream or river without a map. Those of us relying on knowledge handed down by our elders might survive a lot longer.

          Read that as "Hipsters and milennials would be dead in days, unable to find a stream or river with or without a map."

          Those of us relying on knowledge handed down by our elders might survive a lot longer.

          Luddite. I'd rely on my handy Army Field Manual.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      I thought ESA was separate from the EU.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        @Dan 55

        ESA is indeed separate from the EU, but Galileo is an EU project* even though most of it is managed by ESA.

        The funding and political overtones to the project are complex and stupid, but the underlying idea of having a European system for political and technological independence of the USA or Russia is a fairly good idea.

        [*] also with some participation by China, Israel, and others.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: @Dan 55

          If the GPS sats are clobbered by a Carrington event

          These satellites are not known for trailing very long conductive loops, so I doubt this would even be a problem.

          As for a Gamma Ray Burster, you will have to redecorate the whole shop in any case, not sure if the remaining 600 million years of biologically usable Earth will be sufficient though.

    4. SkippyBing Silver badge

      'Of course the UK could just use the EU’s Galileo GPS system that went live in December.....oh wait, post-Brexit the UK will now have to negotiate, and pay for access to it'

      And yet those damned capitalists in the USA let everyone use theirs for free.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        And yet those damned capitalists in the USA let everyone use theirs for free.

        Yes, but they reserve the right to switch it off, reduce resolution, etc. at will at any time, without notice.

      2. Smooth Newt
        Happy

        Damned capitalists

        And yet those damned capitalists in the USA let everyone use theirs for free.

        Sooner or later I expect it will occur to that nice Mr Trump that the Mexicans should pay for their GPS as well as their wall. All he has to do it switch the civilian signal off as the satellites overfly countries which haven't coughed up. He will have stumbled onto a good business model - drug dealers often give the heroin away until their clients are addicted.

    5. Steve Todd

      "Of course the UK could just use the EU’s Galileo GPS system that went live in December.....oh wait, post-Brexit the UK will now have to negotiate, and pay for access to it"

      The public service is free. There are extra services with improved accuracy and/or resiliency which require a subscription, but they shouldn't change in cost or availability because of Brexit.

    6. Dr Who

      Galileo

      Here's Theresa May's plan. It's a much better plan than she's had for pretty much everything else.

      Very, very frightening me.

      (Galileo) Galileo.

      (Galileo) Galileo,

      Galileo Figaro

      Magnifico-o-o-o-o.

    7. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      @ oxfordmale78

      I suppose you have to ask Farage or Boris what you should do, could be you have been exploited and are not fully independent either. Perhaps you should also ask to have your contributions returned.

      About ESA:

      The European Space Agency (ESA) is an intergovernmental organisation of 22 member states, dedicated to the exploration of space. Established in 1975 and headquartered in Paris, France, ESA has a worldwide staff of about 2,000[5] and an annual budget of about €5.25 billion / US$5.77 billion (2016)"

      The UK contribution in mill E (UKSA) 324.8 8.7% of the budget 2016.

      Italy 512.0 13.7%

      France 844.5 22.6%

      Germany 872.6 23.3%

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Space_Agency

    8. William 3 Bronze badge

      Given we part funded it, why should we have to pay for it?

      If we have to pay for it, aren't we entitled to a refund?

      Or are you simply talking emotional bullshit because all those bigots dared to disagree with you over which government should be running the UK?

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
        Facepalm

        If we have to pay for it, aren't we entitled to a refund?

        Oh, boy. I do hope you're one of Mr Davis' team of crack (or should that be cracked?) negotiators!

        International agreements are strangely very different to restaurant bills. The UK was not pressured into signing up to contributing to the development costs (which largely go to fund UK jobs on the project). As long as the contract is honoured by both sides then their shouldn't be any problems. But should the UK now wish to withdraw from such arrangements then the other counterparties would be under no obligation to honour any of it, including preferential access for companies based in signatory countries.

        Rinse and repeat for a whole heap of similar agreements.

        1. MrRimmerSIR!

          Brexit costs

          @Charlie Clark - same rules apply to the demands by the EU for a payout then?

    9. c1ue

      Seems like a pretty ignorant statement. All GNSS systems don't have a direct fee - they all have free access for non-commercial/non-military use.

      I can and do access Compass/Beidou, GPS and GLONASS signals in the US all the time. Galileo is not worth it because there just aren't many satellites up yet.

    10. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Galileo

      Not really a backup.

      If we had a solar flare like in the 19th C, it might knock out ALL satellites.

      Does the report even consider Mobile Basestations, DAB and DTT transmitters etc where the GPS module is used purely for timing instead of a local stable clock? Or even one distributed by fibre?

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Galileo

        "If we had a solar flare like in the 19th C, it might knock out ALL satellites."

        Unlikely - they're not trailing tens of miles of wire behind them.

        On the other hand, power and telecommunications networks DO and that makes them vulnerable.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That said ..

    .. the folding map business is likely to make a mint that day, if it still exists.

    You can recognise people who work in risk management: they still update their Falk Verlag* maps in their glove compartment. Yes, guilty :)

    * They have a very clever, patented technique for map folding.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: That said ..

      I usually use a Falk map and post-it notes.

      I use the post-its to get from A to B (list of major roads / towns I have to pass and detailed directions for the last couple of miles, with the map there as a backup.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: That said ..

        @big_D

        and there was me thinking I was being original. I do exactly the same. I draw little maps on the post-it as well for the last bit.

        I bought a road map the other week and my partner asked me why on earth I would do such a thing, to which my reply was that it's obvious, you should always have a backup in case your phone dies or the network goes down.

        There's also maps.me which is a nice offline map backup.

        Top Tip: Rather than downloading on your phone you can get the maps here using something like wget

        http://direct.mapswithme.com/direct/latest/ and just copy them across.

    2. wyatt

      Re: That said ..

      I still carry a UK road map and local A-Z. Wife can't understand why and refuses to assist navigating, she just doesn't get it. That business is this reliant on a single time source is concerning. What ever happened to atomic clocks!?

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: That said ..

        "What ever happened to atomic clocks!?"

        They put them in satellites and used them to create a global navigation system...

      2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: That said ..

        A 2 or 3 in to the Mile map gives the user a better perspective of an area. Something that a small handheld screen can never do very well. Only the Tesla with its huge screen could get close.

        As for OS maps... There is a huge amount of detail on them that most Satnavs completel ignore. Got sent down one road and came to a Ford. Not even identified by the SatNav yet clearly marked on the OS map.

        I use not together even when I'm on my Motorcycle.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: That said ..

          Got sent down one road and came to a Ford

          There's quite a few of them about. Personally, I blame dealerships.

          :)

      3. Paul Hampson 1

        Re: That said ..

        There have been a number of comments saying that users have physical maps.But GPS positioning is not the same as GIS information. I can still use google maps without GPS, why would I need a paper map?

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: That said ..

          Judging from the time it takes some people to decide at a junction - I think most beige Honda Accords are using sun sightings as a means of navigation.

          1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

            Re: That said ..

            "most beige Honda Accords are using sun sightings as a means of navigation" - oh, that explains the cars parked on the side of my road, and clearly not moved in the past few weeks.

          2. Mike Richards Silver badge

            Re: That said ..

            ;)

            Whereas the lack of indicators suggests Audi drivers are driving using the Force.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: That said ..

              "Audi drivers are driving using the Force."

              Audi drivers think they are the Force.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: That said ..

                "Audi drivers are driving using the Force."

                tbf they are dicks but I'm happy in the knowledge they just overpaid for what is essentially a VW with a different badge.

            2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: That said .. about "Audi drivers"

              Audi drivers don't need GPS.

              They're typically 3cm from the vehicle in front ("the Full Audi"), so they obviously don't require independent navigation.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: That said .. about "Audi drivers"

                Audi drivers doing 'The Full Audi.'

                Just the other day, I had an uneducated clown in an Audi (of course) SUV tailgating about a foot behind at 100+ kmh.

                The ugly pug-faced bastard owes me about $1 for the good liter of washer fluid that I sprayed all over him. Triggered the headlight washers too. Splash!! He sure backed off then.

                For the win!! LOL

          3. Mike Banahan

            Re: That said ..

            I tried sun sightings in my back garden a couple of years ago to see how easy it was. A 12 quid plastic sextant off ebay, a mirror and a spirit level to get it flat (since I can't see the horizon here) and with a bit of practice I could get fixes to within about 3 miles. Good enough for navigation though not pilotage.

            Apparently people with more skill can get within half a mile, which I find rather impressive, but it's not GPS and you need to take sightings several hours apart to get the lines to cross at sensible angles. So the OP may be right about the Hondas.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: That said ..

          I can still use google maps without GPS, why would I need a paper map?

          Because paper maps never, ever run out of power?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: That said ..

            "Because paper maps never, ever run out of power?"

            Paper maps don't need internet access either, and therefore by extension data roaming.

    3. phicoh

      Re: That said ..

      I convert openstreetmap data to Garmin format and put it on my Garmin 62s. So in this case, if GPS would be unavailable, I only have to hook up my Garmin to a laptop and have a nice interactive map in BaseCamp. No need to actually buy any paper maps.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: That said ..

        So in this case, if GPS would be unavailable, I only have to hook up my Garmin to a laptop and have a nice interactive map in BaseCamp

        Which presupposes you already know where you are, in which case you wouldn't need GPS/GNSS anyway.

        1. phicoh

          Re: That said ..

          With GPS a navigation system tells me where to go next.

          Without GPS, I can turn it into a digital replacement for a paper map, which is more up-to-date and more accurate than a paper map.

  3. TRT Silver badge

    Alternatively...

    we could keep going for a bit with reduced accuracy using that handy crowd-sourced WiFi / cell tower to GPS / positional mapping data that the big companies like Apple and Google have been slurping for the last 10 years. My old iPod did a fair job of location finding, and that's not got any sort of a GNSS chip in it.

    1. Your alien overlord - fear me

      Re: Alternatively...

      Just wind your window down and ask for directions :-)

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Alternatively...

        Heck squeeze me? Check out the junk. I'm male. We just don't DO that kind of thing.

      2. herman Silver badge

        Re: Alternatively...

        Some poor Chinese chappy asked for directions and ended up cycling 500 km in the wrong direction.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Alternatively...

          My God! Why do you think the satellite industry is so heavily dominated by males? They'd rather design a space satellite navigation system engineered around near-quantum effects, precision components built to a tolerance unheard of and ruggedised to withstand the harsh radiation environment of space and launched atop multimillion pound rocket delivery systems, than actually have to ASK for directions.

          The whole concept of GNSS came about when a rocket engineer's wife was nagging him to stop the car and ask the postman which was the right road for Weymouth town centre.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Alternatively...

            "which was the right road for Weymouth town centre"

            I had the same trouble with Weymouth town centre. I quickly decided it probably wasn't worth the effort.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: Alternatively...

              Weston-Super-Mare is even worse. It's like some sort of quantum singularity at the centre of it. You cannot escape. And apparently if you do manage to escape, you go insane. I know, I was there once. For FOUR HOURS. I went under the same narrow railway bridge eight times.

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Alternatively... @TRT

      Problem #1 is most cell tower systems rely on GPS for timing/frequency control and simply would go off-line without it. WiFi maybe in built up areas, but not in the country side really. Again, problem #2 is you would need to be prepared before the event to have all of the wifi database on your device, because if it goes wrong then #1 will prevent you getting it.

      Yes, they could invest in better oscillators and systems to last longer, but it is a commercial system at the end of the day...

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Alternatively... @TRT

        "...they could invest in better oscillators..."

        My rubidium oscillator, bought online as surplus, reportedly came out of service from cell phone.

        So they don't use atomic frequency standards any more?

  4. inmypjs Silver badge

    Report by vested interests...

    pulls a number out of its arse to support those interests.

    1. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Report by vested interests...

      To be fair, as much as I agree that the report is somewhat... errr... doom-and-gloom, they have a point about how things have become rather dependent on GPS. I don't think it'll be quite as bad as they make out, but who knows...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a load of crap

    £1bn per day?

    UK GDP is around £2 trn a year. So that's £5.5bn per day. Do these twerps really believe that almost a fifth of GDP is created by shaving a few seconds of ambulance arrivals and helping zero hours van drivers deliver imported Chinese tat sold by a US company that avoids UK taxes?

    And in case they haven't noted, congested roads are the norm. With few strategic route duplications and local roads already congested, loss of GPS wouldn't make much difference at all.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: What a load of crap

      I remember the days, when emergency services, cabbies and delivery drivers knew where the heck they were driving!

      The former had local knowledge and generally could get where they wanted without any assistance.

      I still use my navigation system maybe once or twice a year, tops.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What a load of crap

        I remember the days, when emergency services, cabbies and delivery drivers knew where the heck they were driving!

        Yeah, but if I'd agree with you I would show my age too :)

      2. Alister Silver badge

        Re: What a load of crap

        Yep, but for the emergency services it isn't efficient to use local staff based at local stations, it's much better to have centralised stations and increased response times, apparently.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: What a load of crap

          "it's much better to have centralised stations and increased response times"

          Like this? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-39614096

          1. Alister Silver badge

            Re: What a load of crap

            Yes, exactly.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What a load of crap

      > these twerps

      "commissioned by quangos" probably tells you all you need to know.

      I'm a cynical commentard who once tried to work with "Innovate" UK on a project. They didn't seem to have much of a practical clue but knew a lot of buzzwords.

    3. Mike 125

      Re: What a load of crap

      >>What a load of crap

      Yea, 'cos anyone trying to warn up front of problems is a doom-mongering moron. Bit like those pesky fire regulators. I bet they're all remainers too, right? It's not like the emergency services or communications, or stretched NHS workers, or anyone who actually does a real job depend on sat nav in any way, right?

      When IT manages to reliably construct large scale systems which actually work, instead of the repeated fiascos sucking tax payer dollars, then it'll have time to snipe.

      For now, I'd keep a low profile. Sadly, It's not like govt. will take any notice, they seem to have rather a lot on. So no need to pooh your pants.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What a load of crap @Mike 125

        "So no need to pooh your pants."

        Why forgo the excuse? In this hot weather there's nothing quite as relaxing as lining your own kecks with some fresh, soft, body temperature mud.

        1. earl grey Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: What a load of crap @Mike 125

          IT STINKS!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What a load of crap @Mike 125

            "IT STINKS!"

            Healthy, may even be organic, and full of vitamins. You'll have a bottom like, well, a baby's bottom.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      not so much crap

      995M of that 1bn would be the loss for financial services.

      Those things can't deal well with downtime of any kind, rely on accurate timing and juggle ginormous amounts of money. Real money in the world: 5 tn. Virtual money tied up in stock, debt and derivatives markets: 2000+ tn.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The former had local knowledge and generally could get where they wanted without any assistance.

    Looking on the bright side, a world without GPS is a world without Uber.

    1. Pete 2 Silver badge

      > Looking on the bright side, a world without GPS is a world without Uber.

      Not really. Uber would still have come about since traditional taxi services are so utterly crap.

      The only difference is that Uber cars would get lost a lot more often. But since many Uber drivers seem to be incapable of following GPS-driven driving instructions, it would make little difference.

  7. Robin Bradshaw

    Currently we have GPS, GLONASS and Galileo to choose from and by 2020 ish China will have expanded BeiDou to be global, then as has been mentioned there is the wi-fi/celltower geolocation stuff if close is good enough or are they proposing some apocalypse proof system? in which case id suggest the stop and ask someone method, you will be furnished with a list of turnings and pubs you will go past to get to where you want to be.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      True, but how many cell phone tower systems use anything but the USA's GPS?

      Having the satellites up there is no good if a large proportion of time/frequency/navigation systems use the lowest common denominator.

    2. Zimmer
      Pint

      Past!

      Fail !

      I'm sorry, you used the words 'pub' and 'go past' in the same sentence.....

      1. JLV Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Past!

        >Fail !

        Might be for the best if yer driving...

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Past!

          "Might be for the best if yer driving..."

          So stop driving.

  8. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Pint

    And why not?

    The report raises questions as to whether the government should invest in a national backup and what that should it be

    Sure. Tata Consulting can provide the solution needed (at a lower cost).

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: And why not?

      A National Positioning System using British satelites that orbit the M25?

      Like the man that goes into the map shop and asks for a globe.

      No not one of those Earth ones - I just want a globe of London

  9. Chris Hills

    Why not..

    ..use land stations instead of satellites? GPS can be augmented through a system called RTK, so why bother with the satellites at all?

    1. Detective Emil

      Re: Why not..

      The key word is "augmented": if the satellites go down, there's nothing to augment.

      I must admit that, on seeing this story, I though that the undead eLORAN proposal had again risen from its coffin. And, sure enough, if one follows the links in the article, the full report turns out to discuss (even-handedly) it at some length as one possible fall-back.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: undead eLORAN

        And also a new positioning system based on Iridium satellites, which I hadn't heard of before. Looks like it's less precise than GPS, but with higher signal power.

        It's reassuring that the first alternative the report considers for road navigation is good old-fashioned maps.

        1. Ben1892

          Re: undead eLORAN

          But maps still don't tell you where you are, sat navs and phones will still show a map, you'll just have to work out where you are on it - hence I'm going to start a petition to fire up DECCA again :)

          A terrestrial system like DECCA/LORAN would be a good solution, or maybe even build in positioning signals into an emergency services communications network if we're that worried about losing satellites for any length of time

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: undead eLORAN

            But maps still don't tell you where you are

            Not to go all philosophical on you, but that depends how you got there :)

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: undead eLORAN

              Unless they have a "you are here" notice on them

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Why not..

        Since GPS is pretty much line of sight and you need to be in site of 4 towers (3 if you don't need height) then you would need quite a lot of towers.

        As an alternative, why not a national grid of towers with their OSGB grid coordinates painted in large friendly letters? Then you would know where you were exactly

  10. Panicnow

    Back-up must not be satellite

    A Solar flare is likely to take out ALL GPS systems. the back-up should be terrestrial.

    ( Lots of systems e.g. mobile telephones, use the accurate timing from GPS to operate synchronous comms)

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Back-up must not be satellite

      Did you watch that crap solar attack film on SciFi this weekend too? The dinosaur one was better (as in worse) but at least it had Dick Jones (Robocop) getting ripped to pieces by a dinosaur.

  11. Christian Berger Silver badge

    That's why the EU has started Galileo...

    ...which prompted the Russians and the Chineese to do the same, so now we're going to have 3 politically independent systems. (There's an agreement for the US to be able to shut down Galileo if they wish to, and currently it doesn't seem like it's ever going to work, so I'm not counting it)

    Building combined receivers is simple and that's why many phones have them. However some critical applications (timing mostly) may only have single standard receivers. Those would need to be upgraded with an additional multi standard timing receiver. For applications like DVB-T or DAB SFN synchronisation it would still take a day or more for the oscillators to drift enough in holdover mode for it to become a problem.

    Perhaps it's time for someone to build an NTP-disciplined oscillator. :) (NTP has lots of short time yitter, but obviously no long term drift, so it might work)

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Go

      Re: That's why the EU has started Galileo...

      "As of December 2016 the system has 18 of 30 satellites in orbit. Galileo started offering Early Operational Capability (EOC) on 15 December 2016[1] and is expected to reach Full Operational Capability (FOC) in 2019.[8] The complete 30-satellite Galileo system (24 operational and 6 active spares) is expected by 2020. "

      1. earl grey Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: That's why the EU has started Galileo...

        That fully operational reminds me of some other space based thing....

    2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: That's why the EU has started Galileo...

      Perhaps it's time for someone to build an NTP-disciplined oscillator. :)

      (NTP has lots of short time yitter, but obviously no long term drift, so it might work)

      Isn't that what my time servers are?

      And to reduce the jitter, use Precision Time Protocol.

      "It is also designed for applications that cannot bear the cost of a GPS receiver at each node, or for which GPS signals are inaccessible."

    3. John Sager

      Re: That's why the EU has started Galileo...

      Perhaps it's time for someone to build an NTP-disciplined oscillator. :) (NTP has lots of short time yitter, but obviously no long term drift, so it might work)

      It does work, sorta. The 3G femtocell devices use long sequences (2hrs or so) of NTP queries to get enough accuracy to discipline the local oscillator. My device seems to do it every 24 hours or so.

      As for local knowledge, that seems to be disappearing for all the services that need it. I was talking to a coastguard officer recently & he said that his area would be concentrating to the national centre in Fareham, but that his people didn't want to move to Fareham so their local expertise would be lost.

      Cheap inertial devices are getting better so they may be stable enough soon for trips of a few hours, especially with road lock to estimate the drifts. Also the nav display function 'I think I'm here. Touch the screen where I really am' would set it up for a journey.

    4. david 12 Bronze badge

      Re: That's why the EU has started Galileo...

      >...which prompted the Russians and the Chineese to do the same,<

      The Russian systems long predate Galileo, and the Chinese system is an ordinary bit of pork barrelling for local industry. -- Something that anyone directly involved with Standards would understand.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: That's why the EU has started Galileo...

        Any country which expects to initiate and/or be sole survivor of the War Of Mutual Assured Destruction (WOMAD - although the name is a clue) will want to have its own GPS system, both for use -in- the war, and afterwards when it's the only one left. Thus, the U.S., Russia, China, and, um, France. (The rockets are French named. Do the math. Yes, I know Galileo was Italian, but do you think - ) Or call it Eurovision - then Australia gets to enter.

  12. Making Bacon
    Thumb Up

    My backup GPS is both a map and an AtoZ of the area that i'm travelling to.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      My backup GPS is both a map and an AtoZ of the area that I'm travelling to.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        No backup?

        Sounds risky.

  13. lee harvey osmond

    Fun with Glonass

    Once upon a time, the Russians got uppity about tech gear being imported into the Russian Federation that supported GPS but not Glonass, and imposed a big duty on it. Consequently, most subsequent satnav hardware, from about the iPhone 4S onward, supports GPS, Glonass, and Magellan.

    Once upon a different time, GPS was top-secret US technology. When it got made less so, apart from the well known 'selective availabilty' feature, there was also a requirement that chipsets for consumer equipment not operate above about 200mph, so that miscreants couldn't use them to build their own cruise missiles.

    Which makes for fun when taking screenshots with a cameraphone when travelling with Eurostar or Ryanair, because automotive satnavs always presume you're on a road. 186mph on the M2, 490mph on the N174 south of Saint-Lô, and so on. So I think we're all using Glonass from time to time, even if we're not aware of it.

    1. W4YBO

      Re: Fun with Glonass

      You'll know it's GLONASS if it shows that you're located in Russian territory just across the Ukraine border.

    2. david 12 Bronze badge

      Re: Fun with Glonass

      >GPS was top-secret US technology.<

      GPS was a system disigned, implemented, funded and politically justified for civilian use. The military-industrial complex got a free ride on the civilian infrastructure.

      1. Steve Todd

        Re: Fun with Glonass

        @david - I think you need to check out your history there. GPS (formerly NAVSTAR) was developed by the US Department of Defense, and it was only after the shooting down of Korean Airlines flight 007 by the USSR when it drifted off course into its airspace that Ronald Reagan mandated that the system be made available for civilian use.

        1. david 12 Bronze badge

          Re: Fun with Glonass

          GPS started working in 1995. The program was launched by Reagon after 1983. Which is 12 years of non-secret development of a civilian system for civilian purposes. The period 65-85 saw a complete revolution in electronics and satellite technology: "GPS" was not based on obsolete military technology, and the technology it was based on was not secret.

          In the USA, the "military budget" got used to develop lots of civilian technology. It was used as a method of trade protection ("Free trade! (except for military contracts)") and as a method of pork barreling ("No government intervention in the market! (except for military contracts)").

          The military does, of course, have an interest in navigation, just like the rest of us. Their proposals for navigation systems would eventually have seen civilian use, if the civilian system based on new technology hadn't been developed and funded.

  14. SkippyBing Silver badge

    'Besides navigation, many industries are reliant on GPS software for swathes of critical applications such as financial trading and precision docking of oil tankers.'

    I'm fairly sure precision docking of oil tankers comes under the general heading of navigation. Or maybe pilotage, but that's just navigation's precocious younger brother.

  15. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    Chris Hills and Panicnow are correct, we need an accurate land based solution...

    We WERE going to get eLoRaN, cheap, reliable, when it went wrong you could send a fat bloke in a van to fix it. Now however, it has to be space based because America and Russia and China have space ones. Pathetic.

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      Re: Chris Hills and Panicnow are correct, we need an accurate land based solution...

      Indeed. It's not as if we have a vast land area to cover in the UK.

  16. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    It would be a distinct improvement if it stops HGVs using satnavs intended for cars.

  17. fLaMePrOoF

    DUH! We have invested in a backup, it's an EU project called Galileo which the UK is invested in, it's way more accurate and reliable that GPS and is online now. Then there're BeiDiu and Glonnas which are freely available...

    There really is no story here.

    1. MacroRodent Silver badge

      Glonass mandatory

      Then there're BeiDiu and Glonnas which are freely available...

      In fact, most new mobile phones and satnavs already support Glonass. It is a legal requirement if you plan to sell any equipment with satellite navigation in Russia, so cheaper to include it in all units.

  18. j0nnyf1v3

    ummmm

    That is a lot of money to loose. Especially counting on something with as weak of security as GPS..... Which is only slightly, if at all, encrypted... So.... This will be coming... I can bet a paycheck I no longer get on it!

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: ummmm

      You are aware that GPS is simply a lot of clocks in the sky, all broadcasting the time?

  19. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    "They're using our own satellites against us..."

    I'm sure there is a solid idea for a movie in there somewhere...

  20. MR J

    No GPS is better than BAD GPS.

    Lets take a bloody stand here.

    If GPS is bad and making us be hundreds of meters off target, then we should just dump GPS fully.

    Seems to work for everything else.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So why are financial services using GPS for their clocks - is this some kind of international requirement or is it just cheaper ?

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      A highly accurate timing system is a side effect of GPS, so basically why use something else?

      I remember being told by the Weapons Engineering Officer of one of her Majesty's finest warships that there were ~16 GPS antenna on the superstructure. At most two of them were going to something who's primary function was navigation related, everything else was accurate timing.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      or is it just cheaper ?

      It's cheaper.

      An "atomic" clock is maybe $2,000. I've not checked lately. Could be less. You can even get one that fits in your pocket (battery life may be an issue). This is why DTT, DAB, Mobile phone masts all use GPS. Obviously only for timing as they are not mobile.

      One GHz terrestrial system I know has an oven based "clock reference" only in the main mast and then the clients lock to a pilot carrier for stability, to save £100 per unit.

      The BBC used to distribute an atomic clock signal nationally.

      A GPS receiver is so cheap! Just a few quid. Much smaller and lower power, so very many systems just take the easy way out and don't worry about the US turning it off or a big Solar Flare (which might fry all the satellites, will Sky refund customers?)

      1. Christian Berger Silver badge

        It depends

        "An "atomic" clock is maybe $2,000. I've not checked lately. Could be less. "

        It depends on what you want. A rubidium clock is comparatively cheap, but they aren't quite as precise as caesium clocks. The later still costs 50k new and regularly requires changing the tube inside of it. That's to expensive to put in every cell-tower, but not a problem for a TV station which already pays 100k for a camera and another 100k for the lens.

        "One GHz terrestrial system I know has an oven based "clock reference" only in the main mast and then the clients lock to a pilot carrier for stability, to save £100 per unit."

        That's also standard for mobile phones, otherwise you couldn't get the carrier precise enough.

        Frying all the satellites is unlikely, BTW, as half of them are on the "night" side of earth. The failures I've found so far were only temporary.

  22. techmind

    I haven't seen the gov report, but

    (Maybe I should at least skim the report. Maybe we all should.)

    What we don't know are all the non-obvious (non-navigation) uses which have got baked into applications over the years:

    - train doors' safety systems - unverified, but I was told that on Southern Trains the doors can only be released by the driver/guard at stations (as determined by GPS), and that if there isn't a GPS signal (at some covered stations) then it requires manual over-ride

    - precision timing, to synchronise radio-networks such as mobile-phone base-stations, and single-frequency-network digital TV and DAB radio transmissions.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: I haven't seen the gov report, but

      I believe the door system is called Human Augmented Non Directional Leveraged Exit (HANDLE)

    2. inmypjs Silver badge

      Re: I haven't seen the gov report, but

      "What we don't know are all the non-obvious (non-navigation)"

      There are lots of them but failure of those systems due to failure of GPS satellites isn't going to cost the equivalent of 3 National Health Services, not on the 1st day never mind ongoing.

  23. Cuddles Silver badge

    "Errr, maybe its time for backup?"

    You mean like the three other systems explicitly mentioned in the article? The ones already used by many so-called GPS devices, including plenty of commercially available phones, watches and so on? Yes, that would be a good idea.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: "Errr, maybe its time for backup?"

      Except all those back-ups would be taken out by the same coronal mass ejection if one were to happen. So you've basically said, 'lets keep the backup servers in the same basement as the primary one', it's okay for some failure modes but for the rest you've just got three time or four times the broken parts.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    GLONASS

    No need for yet another load of satellites (we can't afford)

    I'd be happy to have GLONASS or Galileo as a backup.

    Already available.

  25. Herby Silver badge

    Have map...

    Will Travel. Email Herby, Sillycon Valley.

    Yes, I do know the way to San Jose. It is south on I280, or US101. Four lanes each. Wonderfully depicted on the nice AAA (it is called AA in the UK) maps which have great detail.

  26. JaitcH
    Unhappy

    Back-Up? Have you never heard of GLONASS or BEIDOU

    Many consumer GPS systems come equipped with the Russian GLONASS system these days, In my part of the world we also enjoy BEIDOU - both free.

    And, somewhere, there is Galileo.

    And what of Dodderhill, just outside the village of Wychbold, near Droitwich in Worcestershire where the BBC Long Wave service is transmitted? It already carries radio data encoded using phase modulation.

    They might be short of valves / tubes but they could chat with engineers who worked at the late Decca Navigator and get copies of the circuits of their solid state RF amplifiers. The present carrier frequency is controlled by a rubidium atomic frequency standard.

  27. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I guess one worry is all the debris that floating about in near earth orbit. A flake of paint traveling at 10000 mph can put a hole through a fragile satellite. Image if a you get an out of control satellite that impacts another satellite that could create enough debris to cause a chain reaction which could wipe out every satellite in orbit, not just GPS.

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