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Sony Xperia Phones To Use Russian GLONASS Sat Nav System

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Sony says using both GPS and GLONASS will make navigation and positioning more accurate

Sony has revealed that the Xperia S will be able to use the Russian based satellite navigation system GLONASS in addition to the US-based GPS.

In a blog post, Sony positioning specialist Magnus Persson said that the system would be used in any Xperia device with a Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 or S3 processor, including the upcoming Xperia S.

More Accurate

GLONASS, or Globalnaya Navigatsionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema, is a satellite based positioning service owned by Russian space forces and uses 24 active satellites. It has been in development since 1976, but it did not achieve global coverage until last October, meaning that the number of devices which use the system is limited.

Its main competitor is GPS (Global Positioning System) which is owned and maintained by the US Air Force, with its 31 active satellites used by millions of devices around the world.

Persson says that by using both systems, users will be able to navigate easily, even in built up areas with many buildings.

“It’s simple maths – by supporting both systems in a receiver, the number of available global satellites increases from 31 to 55,” he said. “Therefore, more geographic locations are able to receive four or more signals from satellites, which in turn means more successful position calculations and also better accuracy of the calculated positions in challenging environments.”

He added that field tests held with support from Qualcomm in downtown San Francisco had found that the addition of GLONASS improved positioning accuracy by as much as 50 percent. The test measured 600 movements which were recorded and analysed.

Sat Nav Wars

The GLONASS support is transparent and backwards compatible with existing applications, according to Persson.

“If you’ve already developed an Android app using the GPS provider, and if the app is running on any 2011 Xperia smartphones, mostly likely it’s already using GLONASS satellites to improve the positioning accuracy and navigation experience,” he said.

The Playstation-certified Xperia S was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics show (CES) earlier this month and features a 1.5GHz processor, 1GB RAM and a 12.1 megapixel camera capable of recording 1080p high-definition video. It comes preloaded with Android 2.3 Gingerbread but an upgrade for version 4,0 Ice Cream Sandwich is expected later this year.

The iPhone 4S launched with GLONASS support, while British chips specialist Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR) has promised that its satellite navigation chip for mobile phones will be compatible.

The European Union has been developing its own rival to GPS and GLONASS, Gallileo, and has been trying to get European businesses to pledge their support to the venture.