Russia to enter GPS market?

Glonass satelliteRIA Novosti reports that Russia plans to lift restrictions on the use of GLONASS, its Global Positioning System satellites in 2007

Sergei Ivanov said: “By January 1, 2007, the General Staff will lift all restrictions on the precision of coordinates, so that the system can be used to develop the economy and transportation system.”

Current restrictions limit the accuracy for civilian users of Glonass to 30 meters.

A new entrant into the GPS market, competing with the US and EU systems can only be good for the consumer.  It looks like the unrestricted version will only be able to Russians initially – coverage of Russia is 100%, whereas coverage in the rest of Europe and the US isn’t quite at the level required for commercial use. 

This is partly because the full complement of satellites hasn’t yet been launched, and partly because the satellites that are already up there have been focussed on Chechnya to aid operations there.  The Russian military has plans to fill in the gaps in their network as soon as possible, though, with three new satellites planned for December.