China's own GPS makes inroads into neighbouring countries
Beeijing: China's Beidou satellite navigation system, touted to be an alternative to America's GPS, has made steady progress in South East Asian region despite various disputes over Beijing's claims on the South China Sea.
Two Southeast Asian countries, Laos and Brunei, will be adopting the navigation system through research and co-operation agreements, China's Ministry of Science and Technology said.
Thailand is the first overseas customer of Beidou. The system already covers all of Southeast Asia and aims to cover the entire planet by 2020.
Beidou's advances in a number of South East Asian countries like Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines comes despite of their maritime disputes with China over its claims of sovereignty over the entire South China Sea.
Beijing has put 16 navigation satellites and four experimental satellites into space, and plans to put an additional 40 satellites are to join the system in the coming decade, Ran Chengqi, spokesman for the China Satellite Navigation Office, told the official media.
The Global Positioning System (GPS) was created by the US Department of Defense (DoD) and was originally run with 24 satellites. It became fully operational in 1994.
The Beidou system is far from being dominant in China's domestic market. By 2015, it will have a market share of only 15 to 20 per cent in China, Ran said. That is expected to increase to 70 to 80 per cent by 2020.
The system has already been used successfully overseas by a investigative unit of the Ministry of Public Security when they tracked rogue militia leader, Naw Kham in Myanmar in 2011. He was eventually captured in Laos and was executed this year in Kunming, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
Laos' adoption of Beidou will help develop Southeast Asia's only landlocked country's agriculture, the science ministry said. The system could benefit joint efforts to clamp down on the resurgent opium cultivation in Laos.