Apple worried as India tries to push NavIC, its own GPS system

The Global Positioning System, or GPS, is one of the most popular satellite navigation systems in the world. However, there are other technologies that provide precise satellite location – and now India is trying to push NavIC, its own navigation system. However, Apple and other companies seem to be worried about it.

As reported by Reuters (Going through technoblog), the Indian government wants to reduce its dependence on foreign systems like GPS (which belongs to the United States) by creating its own technologies.

One such technology is NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation), which works much the same as GPS, but focuses on providing “more accurate home navigation” for Indian consumers. NavIC was approved in 2006, but it only became fully operational in 2018 with eight satellites covering all of India, as well as other parts of the continent.

India wants smartphones with NavIC

Although the Indian government plans to expand NavIC coverage to other places on the planet, India wants tech companies to make their devices compatible with the new standard by then. However, some of the major smartphone vendors don’t seem happy with the news.

Representatives from Apple, Xiaomi and Samsung reportedly said in private meetings that making their devices compatible with NavIC would significantly increase production costs. The companies also say that implementing such technology would require “more testing permissions”, which seems unfeasible for adoption in 2023.

One of Samsung India’s executives told officials that NavIC support requires new chipsets and other hardware changes, and most companies are “already ready for model launches in 2024.” The exec suggests that NavIC implementation on smartphones would not be feasible before 2025.

Another concern of tech companies is related to how often the NavIC system operates. Currently, the Indian government relies on the L5 satellite frequency, which is much less common for smartphones (Apple now supports L5 with the iPhone 14 Pro and Apple Watch Ultra). The companies are trying to convince India to use the L1 frequency, the same as the GPS frequency.

Apple and other companies worry as India tries to push its own GPS system.

Adoption of NavIC can take a few years

India can claim that the country is not alone in having its own navigation system. For example, the iPhone already supports Russian GLONASS, European Union Galileo, Japanese QZSS, and Chinese BeiDou. Of course, these systems were released long before NavIC, and it took a while for Apple and other companies to implement them in their devices.

The Indian government is notorious for imposing high local taxes on products that don’t have local production – which is why Apple now assembles iPhones in India. It is unclear at this stage whether the government will use a similar approach to force the adoption of NavIC on new smartphones.

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