FCC Approves iPhones and Other Devices to Connect to Europe’s Galileo Satellite System

iPhone XR Rear Panel

The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has partly granted the European Commission’s request to waive off the rules that would allow non-Federal devices in the US to access location data from Europe’s GPS system, Galileo.

Due to previous FCC rules, devices in the U.S. could only connect and acquire positioning data from the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS). This was despite the GPS chip in your existing iPhone or any other device already capable of acquiring a GPS lock from Galileo. The FCC rules block devices in the U.S. from connecting to foreign satellites due to espionage concerns. However, the FCC is now making an exception to this rule and allowing consumer devices in the U.S. to connect to Europe’s Galileo satellite system.

The Federal Communications Commission granted in part the European Commission’s request for a waiver of the Commission’s rules so that non-Federal devices in the United States may access specific signals transmitted from the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) known as Galileo.

With today’s action, consumers and industry in the United States will now be permitted to access certain satellite signals from the Galileo system to augment the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), and thus benefit from improved availability, reliability, and resiliency of these position, navigation, and timing services in the United States.

Europe introduced Galileo as its own independent positioning system in 2016 as it did not want to rely solely on the U.S. GPS. The GPS chip inside most consumer devices including iPhones is already capable of connecting to Galileo satellites. However, to adhere to the FCC rules, the signals were blocked from transmitting. Now that the rule has been relaxed, we might see Apple and other companies roll out software updates to allow for their devices to connect to Europe’s Galileo satellites as well. This will help improve location accuracy and reliability for navigation services.

[Via FCC]