Major Improvements in Smartphone GPS Signals Coming Soon

GLONASS is a network of 22 satellites orbiting the earth that are owned and controlled by the Russian government. Starting next year smartphones based on Qualcomm chipsets are going to get a huge improvement in their GPS reception because they will be able to utilize Russia’s GLONASS signals in addition to the Global Positioning System (GPS). According to Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) and an article in PC Mag, adding GLONASS improves GPS accuracy in “deep urban environments” by 50 percent.

New smartphones will actually be able to leverage both satellite networks to get a much stronger, more reliable GPS signal, even in urban environments like New York City and in mountainous terrain like in Colorado. Between GPS and GLONASS, Qualcomm  smartphones will have 55 satellites to choose from, which makes it much easier for a smartphone or GPS receiver to get a GPS signal.

Qualcomm announced its GLONASS support in May, spurred in part by a new Russian government requirement that phones sold there include GLONASS or pay additional import taxes. GLONASS’ orbit makes it especially suited for usage in northern latitudes, where getting a GPS signal can be problematic, which is good news for Americans and Canadians.

GLONASS is an alternative and complement to the United States’ Global Positioning System (GPS), the Chinese Compass navigation system, and the planned Galileo positioning system of the European Union (EU) and Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System of India.

Commercial GLONASS phones are already out in Russia, and Garmin’s (NASDAQ:GRMN) new eTrex series of handheld GPS devices already combine GPS and GLONASS in the U.S. The eTrex units aren’t phones, though.

The first combined GPS/GLONASS phones will hit the US market “in the coming year,” Qualcomm said.