Galileo, Europe's rival to GPS satnav system, starts service

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Europe's Galileo satellite navigation system, designed to rival the U.S.-made GPS service, has begun formal operations.

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Like GPS, the European satnav system is designed to provide an exact location to commercial and government customers around the world.

The European Space Agency said Thursday that 18 Galileo satellites already in orbit will be joined by another 12 in the coming years to ensure an uninterrupted service. The agency says the system is fully interoperable with GPS, enabling users to get more precise and reliable data on their smartphones or car navigation systems than before.

Aside from its commercial service, Galileo will also provide a dedicated signal to police, firefighters and search and rescue agencies.

Galileo is owned by the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, based in Brussels.