The U.S. Government’s Role in Fostering Commercial GPS Markets.

The birth
of one of the first GPS markets—surveying—was influenced by a 1984 decision
by the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA)to publish the first draft standards in the Federal
Register that allowed for the use of GPS data. This seal of approval of GPS data
by a civil government agency helped jump start the expansion of the surveying
market even while the GPS system was still in development.

By the mid-1980s, commercial GPS equipment aimed at the surveying
profession appeared on the market even though only a small number of operating
GPS satellites were in orbit. Surveying and time transfer were logical entry points into the market because their applications could accept the limited
availability of satellite signals.Surveyors did not need to use their data in real
time, but could make observations whenever sufficient satellite signals were
available, day or night. GPS surveying offered greater productivity and cost
savings over traditional survey methods. Tasks that normally required several
weeks or months to finish could now be completed in a fraction of the time
using GPS—at one-fifth to one-tenth of the cost of conventional surveying.
Satellite surveying also helped sustain the commercial market for GPS
equipment after the Challenger disaster shut down operations and delayed
satellite launches for several years.

The money generated by the survey market boom was also important to the
overall development of GPS applications because it enabled U.S. manufacturers
to invest in research and development (R&D) on GPS technology. The added
R&D investment helped accelerate the development of GPS applications faster
than would have been possible had the DoD been left to carry out this task on
its own. In fact, surveyors were the first to employ some of the more advanced
differential GPS techniques being used today, such as kinematic surveying and
real-time carrier phase tracking. Now, ten years after the first standards were
published, almost all geodetic standards are based on GPS data.

The growth in the GPS survey market opened the way for a number of GPS
niche markets such as aviation. Even in these smaller markets, government
agencies have contributed to their expansion. For example, the FAA issued
performance standards for GPS receivers (Technical Standard Order C129) in
1992. This action allowed manufacturers to build GPS receivers as supplemental
navigation aids for aircraft, thereby broadening the range of market opportunities
for GPS suppliers. As evidence of this, Trimble, the first company to be
awarded the GPS Technical Standard Order certification, signed an agreement
with Honeywell in 1995 to cooperate in developing GPS products for the commercial,
space, and military aviation markets. This alliance will allow both
companies to tap into new GPS markets.

Government export controls have also affected GPS markets. Prior to 1991,
most GPS user equipment shipped abroad required individual validated licenses
to ensure compliance with various Department of Commerce (DoC)
Bureau of Export Administration export control programs. On September 1,
1991, the DoC revised its export list of electronic equipment requiring licenses
for shipment abroad. What the DoC essentially did was to make a clear delineation between military and civil GPS user equipment. Under the revised regulations,
civilian GPS receivers, other satellite equipment, and telecommunications
systems were freed of restrictions and were allowed to be shipped as
“general destination items,” although military receivers, GPS null steerable antennas,
encryption devices, and certain other components were still treated as
“munitions” with strict export restrictions. This liberalization of export controls
helped speed up the U.S. industry’s entry into foreign markets. Today, export
markets are important to U.S. GPS manufacturers, making up an average
of 45 to 50 percent of overall sales.

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