About the program

Positioning 101

Our position on the globe is essential to everyday life. Position allows us to locate ourselves in the world and get to where we want to go. Satellite positioning technologies have enabled the precise navigation and positioning we rely on at the touch of a button, from smartphones to autonomous vehicles. Geoscience Australia is bringing the benefits of space based technology down to earth, through our precise positioning capability. This brings increased productivity, improved community safety and boosted innovation. A 2008 report showed that these technologies have the potential to generate upward of $73 billion of cumulative value to Australia by 2030.

Global navigation satellite systems

To determine position, velocity and time we rely on global navigation satellite system (GNSS) technology. Due to our geographic location, Australia is one of a few countries in the world with high visibility to four global and two regional navigation satellite systems. These include the United States' Global Positioning System (GPS), Russia's GLONASS, Japan's Quasi Zenith Satellite System (QZSS), the European Union's Galileo System, China's BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BeiDou) and the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS). Each system contains multiple satellites and can be used by land, sea and airborne users in all weather conditions, anywhere and anytime.

Improving our positioning capability

Geoscience Australia is working to ensure that accurate positioning information is widely available to the community through the Positioning Australia program. This new capability is being delivered through complementary projects: a national network of reference station infrastructure known as the National Positioning Infrastructure Capability (NPIC) and a system to deliver corrected positioning signals directly to you via satellite technology through an Australian Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) which will be called the Southern Positioning Augmentation Network or SouthPAN. Together with Positioning Australia’s open source Analysis Centre Software, Ginan, these will allow new positioning products and services to be offered in Australia: bringing the benefits of space technology down to Earth.

Current technology typically allows for positioning within 5-10 metre accuracy. Through Positioning Australia, accuracy will be improved to within three centimetres in areas with mobile phone or internet coverage, and ten centimetres everywhere else. This will enable accurate, reliable and real-time positioning across Australia and its maritime zones, and allow innovation and efficiency across a range of industries: agriculture, transport, emergency management, mining, engineering and logistics.

Background to the program

The Australian Government has invested $224.9 million to build a world-leading positioning capability for Australia. Positioning Australia is delivering accurate, reliable and instant positioning capability for all Australians. This program is bringing the benefits of space based technology down to Earth.

Over the next 3 years, this means we’ll have improved positioning information from an accuracy of 5-10 metres, down to 3-5 cm in areas with mobile phone coverage and 10 cm everywhere else on land and sea.

Advances in positioning technology have already changed the way we engage with our world around us. With information available at the touch of a button, we access precise navigation from GPS through our smartphones, and accurate positioning information means driverless cars can stay on the correct side of the road and follow the designated route.

However, precise positioning is already delivering economic benefits and improved community safety across all industries. Open, accessible and accurate data is vital for the next wave of innovation. Positioning Australia’s open data is supporting these transformational technologies delivered by Australian industry that benefit our economy, community and society.

Our data streams are available through the Geoscience Australia Global Navigation Satellite System data centre. These streams enable positioning with an accuracy of 3-5 cm in most regions of Australia with mobile phone coverage. Delivering these data streams requires standardised national infrastructure and Geoscience Australia are upgrading of existing reference stations and installation of new stations, estimated to be complete by the end of 2022.

In February 2020, Australia and New Zealand entered into a partnership to jointly deliver the Satellite based augmentation system (SBAS) component of the program. This will be the first such system in the Southern Hemisphere and will be called the Southern Positioning Augmentation Network, or SouthPAN.

The procurement phase for SouthPAN is currently underway. Initial SouthPAN services are expected in 2022. It will provide accurate positioning to the 10 cm level across Australia and New Zealand and will also improve positioning for marine operations in the Australasian region.