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Beidou, China's GPS alternative, is now complete

China launched the last of its Beidou satellites today.
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China Daily CDIC / Reuters

China’s own global navigation system is now complete. Today, the country launched the last of the satellites that comprise its Beidou Navigation Satellite System, CNBC reports. Beidou has long been seen as an alternative to the US government-owned Global Positioning System (GPS), and it’s part of a larger push to increase China’s tech influence globally.

China began planning its own system in the late 90s, and the first version of Beidou was in service by 2000. This is the third phase of Beidou, and it’s seen as the completion of the system, which shouldn’t need another major upgrade until 2035.

Beidou now has global coverage. As of late last year, about 70 percent of Chinese smartphones already supported Beidou, and more than 100 partners had lined up to use the mapping tech, Nikkei reported. In 2013, China’s ministry of transport began mandating that vehicles used for transporting “dangerous articles,” passenger buses and heavy-duty trucks use Beidou. 

Now complete, the system ensures that China won’t lose access to global navigation in the event of military conflict with the US. Beidou should provide commercial and civilian benefits, too.

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