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BeiDou Satellite: A Backbone of China’s Overall Economy

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It’s such a foundational technology that finding an industry where China’s indigenously built Navigation Satellite System satellite is not used is difficult. The system was conceived by Cheng Fangyun in the ‘80s and, today, after the first satellite was launched in 2000, the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) is deeply entrenched with the country’s ever-expanding ambitions forming the backbone of its digital economy.

It has become a powerful force that has been driving socioeconomic transformation all over the country as its application expands both in width and depth, the China Satellite Navigation Office (CSNO) detailed. Its massive adoption can be seen in how the navigation system has become a household word, affecting the daily lives of people.

Today, the BDS is part of China’s biggest and most promising industries. Chief of which is disaster prevention, transport, forestry, agriculture, fishing, and even power transmission and communication. The number of terminals itself speaks volumes – at the end of 2021, over 1 billion devices and terminals have tapped into the BDS, relying on it for positioning, the National Development and Reform Commission or NDRC disclosed.

One area of Chinese everyday life that the service has become most useful is how it sustained the country’s biggest socio-economic industries. In 2021, the BDS has been incorporated in nearly 8 million road vehicles nationwide. Plus, it has guided the country’s extensive railway network with about 8,000 BDS terminals. BDS applications have been also been front and centre of the COVID-19 response, remote monitoring,  medical health and a host of other digital services all over the country.

Estimates revealed that in the period 2016 to 2020, cumulatively referred to as the 13th Five-year Plan, the industrial value of the BDS is over 400 billion yuan (US$ 59.9 billion). That success has convinced China to open the BDS-3, a global navigation system in 2020.

Currently, the BDS has become more diverse, allowing the execution of a slew of powerful functions. In its global services, it serves up PNT, short for positioning, navigation and timing. Along with that is the global messaging services, not to mention search and rescue services worldwide. It’s becoming a key service player in the Asia-Pacific region giving out precise point positioning and short messaging communication. In short, it has expanded well beyond China.

The BeiDou is now fast becoming another GPS that’s capable of serving the planet. It has about 35 satellites in orbit, more than the 31 GPS satellites. This means that China has a robust ability for innovation and technology moving forward.

BDS is one of the pillars of China’s economy. Digital transformation has become the key factor in the rise of its economy. As per the plan, the country is bound to increase its digital economy by as much as 10% by 2025. China’s industries have made digital adoption a cornerstone. Recently, many have adopted the industrial internet, also dubbed the Artificial Internet of Things (AIoT).


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