Chinese phone-maker may be the 1st to add Desi GPS: Xiaomi

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The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is in advanced level negotiations with Xiaomi, a Chinese mobile phone maker to include NaVIC chipsets — which will provide India’s own version of GPS services to users in the sub-continent — in its phone.

The chipset will be made by US chipmaker Qualcomm Technologies in collaboration with Isro, as announced in October this year. TOI first reported that Isro was in talks with Qualcomm in July 2019.

A senior official from Isro said on Wednesday that if all goes well, Xiaomi may launch handsets integrated with NavIC in about seven months. “We are looking at the mid-segment mobile phones,” he said.

While revealing that Isro is confident of getting Xiaomi onboard, the official, however, said that “nothing has been finalised.” On the collaboration with Qualcomm, the official said: “We are expecting them to release the chipsets later this month.”

NavIC is India’s regional satellite navigation system (IRNSS) that provides accurate real-time positioning and timing services. The constellation of satellites under the IRNSS programme covers a region of about 1,500 km around its boundary, with plans for expansion.

The inability to integrate NaVIC with mobile phones has been a barrier preventing taking the IRNSS services to the masses, although Isro and the Indian Air Force (IAF) are also working on equipping fighter planes with it and commercial vehicles registered after April 1 2019 are mandated to also have trackers with NavIC.

More than 30 companies are manufacturing Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) or International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) approved NavIC-enabled vehicle trackers in India already.

Besides this, Isro said that a Multi Chip Module (MCM) based on 55nm technology developed through Taiwan-based SkyTraQ has been procured by its commercial arm to enable Indian industry in productionisation of NavIC Messaging Receiver and Vehicle Tracker Units.

Sivan had earlier told TOI: “In the future, we are also looking at NavIC on auto rickshaws carrying advertisements. At present the advertiser does not know if the ad is reaching the target audience and how many places the rickshaw actually goes to. With NavIC, they will be able to know the exact details.”

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