View Single Post
Old 07-08-2019, 02:06 PM
Bassman is offline
Join Date: Sep 2017
Location: Florida
Posts: 52

My Fellow Americans: Your Smartphone is (Probably) Illegal!

In addition to the United States’ Global Positioning System (GPS), there are a number of other global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) in our world. The three others that have global or near-global service are Russia’s GLONASS, the European Union’s Galileo and China’s BeiDou.

As described in this blog post by the American developer of a common smartphone GNSS testing app, the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (eCFR) states that “Receive-only earth stations operating with non-U.S. licensed space stations shall file an FCC Form 312 requesting a license or modification to operate such station”. This has been interpreted as prohibiting U.S.-based GNSS receivers from receiving signals from foreign GNSS signals without a waiver from the FCC. As such, most smartphones located in the U.S. would not use Galileo even if they had the hardware to support it. Fortunately, in November 2018 the FCC granted a waiver allowing the use of Galileo in the U.S. Since then, manufactures have begun removing the Galileo geofencing.

Here’s where the catch is- while the EU sought and received a waiver for Galileo and most phone manufacturers previously blocked the receipt of the Galileo signals, nearly all smartphones sold since 2014 have supported and made use of dual GPS/GLONASS satellite signals, even though GLONASS has never been granted a waiver. Thus, every time you use GNSS on your phone on U.S. territory, you are violating the law.

Personally, I think this rule should be modified to not apply to GNSS receivers. It serves no real purpose and is unenforceable. Let’s discuss!