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GLONASS is an acronym, which stands for Globalnaya Navigazionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema, or Global Navigation Satellite System. GLONASS is Russia’s version of GPS (Global Position System).

Who built it?

Soviet Union started the development of GLONASS in 1976. GLONASS is the most expensive program of the Russian Federal Space Agency, consuming a third of its budget in 2010.

what is glonass in mobile


The various versions of GLONASS were

  1. GLONASS – launched in 1982, the satellites launched were intended to work for weather positioning, velocity measuring and timing anywhere in the world or near-Earth space by the military and official organisations.
  2. GLONASS-M – launched in 2003 add second civil code. It is important for GIS mapping receivers.
  3. GLONASS-k – started in 2011 again has 3 more types namely k1, k2 and km for research. Adds third civil frequency.

How much did GLONASS cost?

In the past decade ie.10 years up to 2011 the Russian government spent about 5 billion dollars on GLONASS project, the most expensive ever by Russian Federal space Agency.

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How is GLONASS different from GPS?

GPS developed by USA has a network of 31 satellites covering this planet and has been widely used in commercial devices like mobile phones, navigators etc.

GLONASS is developed by Russia originally started by Soviet Union in 1976. This has a network of 24 satellites covering the earth.

The image shows the orbit and constellation of GLONASS (left) and GPS (right).

The image shows the orbit and constellation of GLONASS (left) and GPS (right).

Commercial Use of GLONASS:

GLONASS was first commercially used in car navigator as Glospace SGK-70 but was bulky and expensive.  Russian government is trying hard to promote GLONASS commercially.

Commercial Use of GLONASS

IPhone 4S was the first apple product to use both GPS and GLONASS for pinpointing location on maps.

All the high end devices in near future that supports GPS facilities, especially navigators are expected to include GLONASS receivers on their chip to use location based services.

Advantage of GLONASS over GPS:

There is no clear advantage other than accuracy over GPS. When used alone GLONASS doesn’t have that strong coverage as GPS has, but when both used together certainly increases accuracy with coverage. And it is more useful in northern latitudes as Russia started GLONASS originally for Russia.

The accuracy is an advantage of GLONASS with up to 2 meter of accuracy. GPS + GLONASS allows your device to be pin pointed by a group of 55 satellites all across the globe. So when you are in a place where GPS signals are stuck like between huge buildings or subways, you will be tracked by GLONASS satellites accurately.


What is offered for smartphones?

 smartphones glonass

Today any mobile phone whether it is a high end or a low budget smartphone is equipped with A-GPS (assisted Global Positional System) which uses network capabilities to find your location.

Now with GLONASS being offered for public services, more and more smartphones are being launched with GPS+GLONASS technology to use dual core location based service to find location. Initially only Flagship or high end smartphones boasts these features but as time will progress, we will see both these technologies being equipped on low and mid-range smartphones. More and more companies and chip manufacturers seem to be interested in GLONASS technology, so more and more smartphones are expected to be launched with this technology.

Does GLONASS + GPS drain battery twice as faster than what GPS does?

As a matter of fact renowned manufacturers like Qualcomm are already with energy efficient solutions for phones powered by snapdragon processors. The chip will intelligently switch on and off the GLONASS signal receiver when needed. So smartphones would be energy efficient unlike the earlier generation phones with battery drainer GPS systems.

What’s next after GLONASS and GPS? Is this the end?

What’s next after GLONASS and GPS? Is this the end?

European Union is currently working on a system called GALILEO which is to be completed by 2014.

China is developing its own constellation of 35 satellites called Compass Navigation system. It will offer more capabilities than current GPS.


IRNSS or Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System is autonomous satellite system being developed by ISRO(Indian Space Research Organisation ) and will offer public service and restricted service(authorized users like military). These system would consist constellation of 7 satellites.


More information at Wikipedia

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

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Obsessed with gadgets and new technologies, passionate about spreading awareness and knowledge among mass towards technology


Hi. Thank you for the very interesting article. Am wondering if it would be possible to create an alternative Internet using the GLONASS System???

Anurag Bisht
Anurag Bisht

Rather than alternative internet, these navigation systems from different countries and unions can really make navigation devices much more reliable on public devices and services to local people