New system likely following vote Global positioning system users are a big step closer to having a choice of providers after a March 26 vote confirmed plans by the European Union to launch a global, 30-satellite system to rival the U.S. military’s GPS.

The EU approved nearly $450 million of development and validation funding to bolster $566 million already invested in the project, called Galileo. The goal is to have a $3-billion, civilian-controlled network operational by 2008.

With Russia’s system aging, the U.S. system dominates. It provides location service for free, but is subject to intentional degradation or even shut-down when U.S. priorities require such action. Galileo’s basic service will also be free but a premium level of accuracy that the U.S. system cannot provide (45 cm vs. 30 m) is expected to be offered for a fee.

An EU policy statement says Europe needs Galileo to avoid "becoming dependent on systems and technologies developed outside Europe for applications vital to the running of the society of tomorrow."