Examination of Witnesses (Questions 387
WEDNESDAY 7 FEBRUARY 2007
Q387 Chairman: Could I welcome our
final panel for this morning, Liz Duthie, divisional manager for
the Galileo Programme Division of the Department of Transport,
Patrick McDougal, the vice-president of business development at
Inmarsat, and Neil Ackroyd, the director of data collection and
management at Ordnance Survey. I thank you all very much indeed
for coming this morning. Could I start with you, Elizabeth. What
are the main ways in which the Government intends to use satellite
Ms Duthie: The ways in which the
Government will use satellite navigation have been identified
in general. Obviously there are lots of potential transport applications
in all modes of transport and there are other applications like
inland surveying and in tracking people/things/whatever. These
applications are all potential at the moment because we do not
know the exact details of the signals and so on. We do not know
how complicated and difficult it will be to use some of the special
services of Galileo. Obviously for the open signal there will
be a lot of uses, including commercial uses. Within government,
we are bringing people together from different departments who
are likely to have uses for the signalfor Galileo and for
GNSS generally. I am talking about what we call the cross-cutting
issues which will need to be sorted out before government can
make best use of the potential.
Q388 Chairman: Who is coordinating
Ms Duthie: We coordinate that
in the department.
Q389 Chairman: The Department of
Transport is coordinating that and how is that communicated to
industry and how is that communicated to academia?
Ms Duthie: The communication to
industry is mostly done through BNSC because BNSC has the responsibility
for the space industry and we work closely with them. We also
keep in close contact with the knowledge transfer network on position
and timing. For instance, we might attend their seminars, we have
discussions with them about the road map for the use of Galileo,
and we talk to people like Ordnance Survey and Inmarsat and other
providers or users about what is needed to smooth the ground for
Q390 Chairman: Neil, are you happy
with the way in which the Government is approaching the use of
Galileo and the huge potential benefits there are both for your
organisation and elsewhere? Are you fully plugged in?
Mr Ackroyd: Yes. In a number of
ways the knowledge transfer network that Liz mentioned was a very
useful organisation. It brings together all parts of the downstream
activity groups, from big utility companies to the network providers,
to small SMEs, to large upstream organisations such as Logica
and EADS and people like that. That is a very dynamic group and
communicates very well. On the application side, many of the applications
are already out there and working well within the current infrastructure
but really have not yet migrated to, I guess, safety critical
or business critical applications because of availability problems
in urban areas, for example. The utility is clear. I guess really
now it is a case of waiting, as Liz has said, for the signals,
so that the receivers and the architects can build the technology
that will deliver the applications.
Q391 Chairman: Could I come back
to you, Elizabeth. In terms of road user charging, which is something
we have heard a great deal about, when is the Government going
to make a decision on that? When is your department going to make
a decision? This year?
Ms Duthie: The Government will
make a decision when it has the evidence on which to base that
decision. Within the last six months, the department announced
that there will be trials of the technology. There are 10 pilot
schemes, from recollection, and if you like I can send you some
more information about those. The question is how you get a system
which is as simple as possible and puts as few burdens as possible
in terms of cost and complexity and so on.
Q392 Chairman: So there is no firm
date in fact.
Ms Duthie: There is no firm date
as far as I know.
Q393 Dr Spink: Is there sufficient
satellite cover up there at the moment for this country to make
a system, if all the other systems were engineered correctly,
feasible at the moment? Or do we need more satellite capacity
Ms Duthie: The answer to that
must be in the experience of Germany, where there is a lorry tolling
scheme. That is a mixed scheme which includes GPS and, I think,
microwave. At the moment the Germans have gone for a mixed system.
Other European partners are also looking at systems which I think
involve mixed technology.
Q394 Dr Spink: So there is not sufficient
satellite capacity up there at the moment to make broadcasting
work in this country.
Ms Duthie: It depends exactly
what degree of assurance and integrity you want from the system
and whether you want to augment the use of satellite technology
with some other technology.
Q395 Chairman: Patrick, could I ask
you two things. First of all, how plugged in is the private sector
to the Government's plans in terms of the use of Galileo and other
satellite systems? Secondly, in terms of private companies, how
would Galileo benefit the private companies operating within this
space field? How important is it to you? I am a bit depressed,
to be honest, listening to all the problems that might exist.
I thought Galileo was going to be the answer to all our problems.
Mr McDougal: The private sector,
certainly Inmarsat, is very well versed in what both the UK Government
and European governments are planning and imagining the uses of
Galileo for. Some of them are more mature than others but there
is a lot of activity at both the transport level and at other
levels to generate these kind of applications. I do not think
there is a lack of understanding of that. To answer the second
question, the difficulty right now is not knowing what the private
sector would call the business modelexactly how we are
going to earn that profit that we need to make the investments
we are making now. For Inmarsat we accept that lack of certainty
because that is the nature of this beast. It is a long-term set
of applications for which the exact business model is uncertain
but for which the potential is huge and is completely accepted
by all this.
Q396 Chairman: Is this because we
are not developing the technologies fast enough?
Mr McDougal: No.
Q397 Chairman: Is this about R&D
within the private sector?
Ms Duthie: No, I do not think
so. I really think the path to success here for both the private
and the public sector is, as quickly as possible, to get this
thing built and out there. Only then, when we turn to our downstream
colleagues, our service providers or application providers, will
we see the level of development that we will need. We have no
doubt that the potential is there but the only way to get there
rather than studying it endlessly or doing more R&D is to
get it out there.
Q398 Chairman: Neil, would you agree
Mr Ackroyd: Absolutely. The whole
reason that the GPS signal took off the way it did was because
the signals were operational in the early Eighties. It is as simple
as that. The manufactures then learned how to use those signals
and learned how to use them in ways that the designers had not
Q399 Chairman: The answer is to get
on with it.
Mr Ackroyd: Absolutely, get it