GLONASS gets Nokia backing, aims to rival COMPASS

An engineer works on the GLONASS-M-33 space satellite in the assembly area of the open joint-stock company Reshetnev Information Satellite Systems (formerly known as the NPO PM Applied Mechanics Institute) in the Siberian town of Zheleznogorsk, 50 km (31 miles) northeast of the city of Krasnoyarsk, April 8, 2009. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia has secured Nokia’s backing of its GLONASS satellite navigation system, a major step forward for the country’s technology toward securing the number two global position after GPS.

GLONASS, as well as European space program Galileo and China’s Compass, are set to break over 20 years of unrivalled dominance of Global Positioning System (GPS) as countries seek to cut their reliance on the U.S. technology.

The world’s largest phone maker by volume, Nokia aims to release its first cellphone supporting GLONASS as well as GPS next year, the head of GLONASS operator NIS GLONASS told Reuters.

“It is possible that already by the end of next year most Nokia cellphones will be equipped with chipsets supporting both GLONASS and GPS, and we hope other vendors will follow,” Alexander Gurko, chief executive of NIS GLONASS, said in an interview.

The move will help to speed up the penetration of the technology in the consumer markets, with the local market being only a marginal slice of the area Russia is targeting with GLONASS.

NIS GLONASS is a joint venture between Russian state space agency Roskosmos and oil-to-telecoms conglomerate Sistema.

Writing by Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Nicola Leske and Mike Nesbit