Home > Technology > What signal does GPS use

What signal does GPS use

There are currently between 27 and 32 global positions system (GPS) satellites in orbit around the earth. Of these, three act as backups. Each satellite transmits a regular GPS signal that is carried by radio waves in the microwave part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Each GPS satellite continuously broadcasts a navigation message at 50 bits per second on the microwave carrier frequency of approx 1600 MHz .FM radio, for comparison, is broadcast at between 87.5 and 108.0 MHz and Wi-Fi networks operate at around 5000 MHz and 2400 MHz More precisely, all satellites broadcast at 1575.42 MHz (this is the L1 signal) and 1227.6 MHz (the L2 signal).

The GPS signal gives the precise "time-of-week" according to the satellite's onboard atomic clock, the GPS week number and a health report for the satellite so that it can be discounted if faulty.Each transmission lasts 30 seconds and carries 1500 bits of encrypted data. This small amount of data is encoded with a high-rate pseudo-random (PRN) sequence that is different for each satellite. GPS receivers know the PRN codes for each satellite and so can not only decode the signal but distinguish between different satellites.