BRUSSELS The United States and the European Union are close to signing an agreement that would allow their satellite navigation systems to work together to provide more accurate images and information.
Under the agreement, which the United States says it expects to be signed this week, both EU and U.S. satellites would send information on the same radio frequency, enabling receivers to get signals from both systems and combine the data.
The EU's Galileo system is yet to be launched, and the benefits of the agreement will depend on makers of receivers wanting to accept both systems, but one senior U.S. official involved in the EU-U.S. talks said that was inevitable.
"The market probably will drive dual-use receivers. We think probably that single (U.S.) GPS-specific, or Galileo-specific receivers -- the market will phase out in time," said Raymond Clore, a GPS-Galileo senior adviser from the U.S. State Department.
"It just doesn't make sense to limit yourself to just one system," he told Reuters.
The United States has 30 satellites orbiting the earth, sending signals that allow holders of receivers to pinpoint their own and others' locations -- as used in car satellite navigation systems.
The EU aims also to have 30 satellites up in space by around 2010 with a fully operational Galileo system by 2012.
The idea is that receivers getting data from potentially twice the number of satellites would be able to create a more accurate picture especially in areas where reception is weak because of the urban or natural landscape.
The United States is in the process of updating its GPS system -- procuring new satellites that would launched into space by 2013.
A European Commission spokesman confirmed an agreement was on the table, but could not say when.