GNSS: An Introduction to The Global Navigation Satellite System

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Every day, we are surrounded by various types of signals, different bands of frequency and also radio waves. While some transmissions like TV and radio entertain us, trekking thought mountain ranges and its path making or marine communication with others such as Global navigation system simply GPS offers important details that we would certainly quite actually be shed without. And yet regardless the significance of GPS in our day to days lives, we generally understand very little about exactly how it works.

Here we will shed a little light on the subject of satellite navigation. We will go deeper than some descriptions but ignore the complicated things. In the end, you will have a solid understanding of how satellite navigation like GNSS actually works, and more significantly what it can, and cannot, do.


Along with this, Gallon Electric also offer you for choosing and purchasing the right material and equipment for satellite navigation-related applications. Gallon Electric is a worldwide leading authorized distributor of semiconductors and electronic components like satellite navigation devices and components for over 300 industry-leading manufacturers.

What is GNSS?

Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) describes a constellation of satellites providing signals from space that transmit positioning and timing data to GNSS receivers. The receivers then use this data to figure out the location. GNSS is an over-all term explaining any satellite constellation that provides positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) facilities on a global or regional basis.

In GNSS, it delivers global coverage. GNSS is the common name used to describe any kind of global system of satellites that transmit signals for navigation purposes on Earth. The distinction of using terms like GPS or GLONASS is important if you are making use of satellite systems for measurement objectives since each system works in a slightly various method (although completion outcome appears to be the same).

Global Navigation Satellite System

When discussing satellite navigation systems, GPS is so acquainted with the general public that it has come to be identified with any type of satellite navigation system—but we need to be careful. The term GPS is actually the name of the system created by the US military and stands for Global Positioning System. There are other systems as well. The Russian military system as an example is called GLONASS (Global Orbiting Navigation Satellite System), while China has established a system called BeiDou-2 and also Galileo, a global navigation system developed by the European Union.

Since the year, 2021, there are 4 major GNSSs are readily available until now:

  • GPS (Global Position System) — developed by the USA
  • GLONASS (Global Orbiting Navigation Satellite System) — developed by Russia.
  • BeiDou 2 — developed by the by China.
  • Galileo — developed by the European Union.

The performance of GNSS is assessed using four main criteria:

  1. Accuracy: Where the distinction between a receiver’s measured and real position, speed or time;
  2. Integrity: Here, a system’s capacity to supply a limit of confidence and, in the case of an anomaly in the positioning data, an alarm;
  3. Continuity: a system’s facility to perform works without interruption;
  4. Availability: the fraction of time a signal meets the above accuracy, integrity and continuity criteria.

This performance can be boosted by regional satellite-based augmentation systems (SBAS), such as the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS). EGNOS improves the precision and dependability of GPS information by modifying signal measurement errors and by supplying information about the integrity of its signals.

How Does GNSS Work?

map of the globe

The GNSS satellites transmit information regarding their position and (using atomic clocks system) the time when each separate signal was sent.

GNSS receivers can then usage signals from several satellites to trilateration their placement using their distance from at least four GNSS satellites, this is also likewise why more satellites equal more accuracy.

There are two parts to the majority of GNSS receivers; the antenna and the processing unit or receiver. The antenna is where the satellite signals are obtained or generally received, while the receiver makes sense of the information being obtained and turns it into measurements we comprehend, such as latitude and longitude. On twin antenna systems, they are generally called the ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ antennas.

GNSS Receivers

GNSS Receivers are the interface to any Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). The receivers refine the Signals in Space (SIS) send or transmitted by the satellites. GNSS receivers measure the distance to every single satellite based on the time it takes a satellite SIS signal to reach them.


Even though the details given by a generic GNSS receiver can be used by a wider range of applications, many of them rely on the receiver’s navigation service – i.e., receiver calculated Position, Velocity and Time (PVT).

The antenna and the processing unit or receiver both works as the receiver part. The antenna is where the satellite signals are received, while the receiver does identification of the information being received and turns it into measurements we understand, such as latitude and longitude.

It’s essential to identify that the calculations about position, speed and altitude relate to the antenna itself, and not the receiver.

To understand how a GNSS works, we are considering GPS, as we know more about it. As GPS is the system people are most familiar with, there are three parts:

  • The space segments
  • The control segments
  • The user segments

Although the GNSS receivers do all the work, the actual measurements they produce relate to the position of the antennas themselves. This is important to bear in mind because the length of the antenna cables means a receiver can sometimes be quite a distance from the output position measurements.

Accuracy of the GNSS

In open sky environments, usual accuracy GNSS receivers are accurate to about two meters, however, since GNSS receivers count on the time it takes a satellite signal to reach them, also the smallest errors (billionths of a second) can negatively impact accuracy.

Errors in the satellite orbit position can lead to around 2.5 meters’ loss of accuracy. Satellites clock errors can add additional 1.5 meters. And also, inconsistencies in the atmosphere and the ionosphere can include another one and five meters respectively, then throw in the periodic extreme ruptured of solar activity or multipath effects like signals bouncing off building walls and this accuracy can blow out to 10 meters or more.

Man using phone with gnss

Luckily, High accuracy GNSS systems intensely improve accuracy using GNSS correction data to negate the errors. One way they do this entails tracking GNSS signals from a base station at a recognized location. Inconsistencies from the base station’s setting are observed and sent to a rover– e.g., a vehicle outfitted with a GNSS receiver– enabling it to get a more precise position analysis. In a beneficial situation, this method can be used to achieve centimetres-level precision, provided that the base station, as well as the vagabond, are not as well much apart.

GNSS systems, on the whole, are pretty amazing. They are easy to use, don’t drift and can achieve a higher degree of precision. However, they are not the best. For the initial step, to reach their complete potential they prerequisite a clear and uninterrupted view of the sky. That is a great advantage if you are operating in the centre of an area, but if you are attempting to check city roads, or at work under bridges and in tunnels, at best you get reduced accuracy, and at worst you get no measurements at all.

Base Station for GNSS

Typically, a base station (or Reference Station) is made up of a GNSS Receiver, a GNSS Antenna, Radio Transmitter and a power supply. The station is sited at an identified (and fixed) spot, the base station’s receiver tracks satellites in the same way (and at the same time) that the rover does.

The errors in the GNSS system are monitored at the fixed (and known) location of the base station, and a series of position corrections are computed and can be sent via the base station’s radio to the rover’s receiver. The rover then uses the data to precise its real-time position, leading to very high accuracy positioning.


While GNSS satellites vary in age and design, their primary operation remains the same. The satellites transmit two carrier waves in the L-Band referred to as L1 and L2. The carrier waves transmit information from the satellite to the earth.

Most GNSS receivers have two fragments: an antenna unit and a processing unit. The antenna receives satellite signals while the processing unit makes sense of it. To regulate the position of the receiver it needs to collect information from a minimum of three satellites.

GNSS satellite orbits Earth once every 11 hours, 58 minutes and 2 seconds at a medium-orbit altitude. Each satellite transmits coded signals which contain the satellite’s precise orbit details and a very stable timestamp from an atomic clock.

The time details broadcast as codes by the satellite so that a receiver can constantly establish the moment the signal was transmitted. The signal includes information that a receiver makes use of to calculate the places of the satellites and also adjust for precise placing. The receiver utilizes the time difference in between the time of signal reception as well as the program time to compute the distance, or variety, from the receiver to the satellite. When the receiver recognizes the accurate position of itself relative to each satellite, it converts its very own placement right into an Earth-based coordinates system, therefore gives the lead to latitude, longitude and also height.


What’s the difference between GNSS and GPS?

GNSS represents Global Navigation Satellite System and is an umbrella term that incorporates all global satellite positioning systems. This contains constellations of satellites orbiting over the earth’s surface and continuously continually beaming that make it possible for individuals to establish their setting.

The GPS is one module of the Global Navigation Satellite System. Specifically, it refers to the NAVSTAR Global Positioning System, a constellation of satellites technologically advanced by the Department of Defense of the US Government. Initially, the GPS was established for military use but was later made accessible to civilians as well. GPS is currently one of the most commonly utilized GNSS in the world, and provides continuous positioning and timing information globally, under any climate conditions.

gps-icon-and map

Besides GPS, the GNSS currently consist of other four main satellite navigation systems, such as the Russian GLONASS, and may soon include others such as the European Union’s Galileo and China’s Beidou-2.

GNSS is used in association with GPS systems to provide exact position determination anywhere on earth. GNSS and GPS work together, but the key difference between both is that GNSS-compatible kit can usage navigational satellites from other networks beyond the GPS system, and more satellites mean increased receiver accuracy and reliability. All GNSS receivers are compatible with GPS, but GPS receivers are not necessarily compatible with GNSS.

At present, GNSS or, GPS is being used in a selection of areas where the use of precise, continually available position and time information is mandatory, counting agriculture, transportation, machine control, marine navigation, automobile navigation, mobile communication and athletics.

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