China is throwing its weight behind homegrown technologies once again, and is planning to have its own global satellite navigation system up and running by 2015.

Not to be outdone by the similar aspirations of Europe’s Galileo system and Russia’s Glonass, China aims to have a constellation of about 30 satellites in the sky by 2015, in a bid to remove dependence on the US Navstar GPS system.

The Compass system, also known as Beidou-2, is not an extension of China’s existing localised Beidou-1 system, but a whole new project. Although initiated by China’s military, the research and building of the system has now been taken over by the China Satellite Navigation Project Centre (CSNPC).

In order to get its new system underway, China plans to send 10 navigation satellites into space between 2009 and 2010.

Since former US president Ronald Reagan made GPS functionality freely available to the world, the potential market for satellite-based services has seen steady growth. Industry analyst In-Stat notes that in 2007 PND (Personal Navigation Device) shipments reached 30.7 million units worldwide, but are forecast to more than double to 68 million by 2012. And the PND sector represents just a fraction of the mobile industry, with some figures suggesting upwards of 35 per cent of all smartphones presently ship with GPS functionality.

In early January the Chinese government issued 3G mobile licences, putting into action a master plan that will pave the way for the long awaited introduction of third generation services.

Leading wireless player China Mobile landed a licence to deploy China’s homegrown 3G technology, TD-SCDMA. While the country’s remaining wireless players, China Unicom and China Telecom, were given WCDMA and cdma2000 licences respectively.