Posted by Hydrographic Catalogue on 06/26/2017

The economic impact on the UK of a disruption to GNSS

The economic impact on the UK of a disruption to GNSS

GNSS Global Navigation Satellite System(s) has been described as the invisible utility, and the findings of this researchsuggest that status to be well justified. GNSS is an integral source of timing and positioning information for a very widerange of economic sectors in the UK, enabling and enhancing daily activities for public, commercial and private citizenusers. All critical national infrastructures (CNI) rely on GNSS to some extent, with Communications, Emergency Services,Finance, Government and Transport identified as particularly intensive users. This reliance has developed over decades,based on assumed availability and continuity of GNSS signals. GNSS is also a primary input for Transport (road, air,maritime, and rail), Agriculture, Surveying, and Legal users. It has been estimated that the UK space industry derivedturnover of £1.7bn from Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) services in 2014/15, supporting 4,000 jobs. More broadly,it has been estimated that sectors generating 11.3% of UK GDP are supported directly by GNSS, but the primacy of GNSSin CNI means that an even wider range of economic activity is underpinned by GNSS indirectly.

Quantified economic benefits to the UK of GNSS have been monetised at £6.7bn per annum, comprised of £1.2bn inGross Value-Added (GVA) benefits and £5.5bn in utility benefits (efficiency, safety, etc.). These values have beenestimated conservatively as the incremental benefit of using GNSS rather than the well-functioning next best alternative.Road and Emergency Service applications account for almost 80% of estimated benefits. However, a range of benefits hasnot been quantified, as GNSS underpins activity for which a global source of accurate timing is a necessity. This includesfinancial markets, where the internationalisation of the industry has relied on a universally referenceable time source.Accordingly, the total benefits of GNSS estimated in this report may be considered a lower bound, and the true value ofGNSS benefits to the UK economy is much higher.

The economic impact to GNSS-reliant present-day UK of a loss of GNSS has been estimated at £5.2bn over a five-day period, comprised of £1.7bn in lost GVA and £3.5bn in lost utility benefits. Applicationsin road, maritime, and emergency and justiceservices account for 67% of all impacts. This is limitedby the resilience that stakeholders have confirmedare in place for a duration of five days, and thedifficulty of robustly estimating the costs associatedwith loss of certain activities. For maritime shipping,for example, the loss of GNSS would severely disruptall ports and the loading and unloading of containersfor the duration of the outage. The knock-on effectsare difficult to estimate in monetary terms, butevidence suggests that factories relying on just-in-time delivery would likely run out of inputs on thefirst day. Goods imported to the UK by other meanswould be severely delayed as ports and other transport operations would lose all the efficiencies brought about by GNSS.The telecommunications network, however, would not be affected. The impact on the domestic transport network wouldbe substantial, at £2bn. Congestion would build very quickly, and delivery and minicab drivers would lose their preferrednavigation method. This would impact all drivers as the increased congestion would mean that even drivers that knowtheir route would see increases in travel time. Similarly, surveying activity a critical input in all construction activities would be expected to shut down for the duration of the outage, costing £345m in lost activity.

The UK government has invested almost £1.2bn (€1.5bn) since 2000 to develop the European GNSS infrastructure, promising greater performance and resilience, and to foster the lucrative downstream applications market, whichprovides significant benefits to users and the rest of society. As well as generating significant GVA, high-productivity jobsand taxes for the UK, the contracts have improved the overall competitiveness of the UK space sector and helped cementthe UK’s reputation as a leading partner in European space programmes.

Several mitigation strategies have been discussed in this report. The most applicable mitigation strategies for the largestnumber of applications are eLoran and Satelles Time and Location (STL). These high-availability services could mitigatemany of the detriments in the maritime sector, and while the accuracy is insufficient for container stacking andautonomous cranes, the ability to schedule port operations and reduce downtime would help to keep ports open. Thecost of resurrecting (e)Loran to a useful level of three masts would be in the order of £50m over 15 years. The cost ofSTL is unclear at this early stage in its development. Omnisense SP500 and Locata may be preferred for localisedapplications that require high levels of accuracy (e.g. surveying and agriculture). Timing applications have been found tobe resilient to a five-day outage of GNSS, but could implement eLoran, STL, Locata or freely-available Network TimeProtocol (NTP) servers as a source of timing for low accuracy applications. If higher accuracy is required, Precision TimeProtocols (PTP) or time-over fibre networks, like NPL-time, are two alternatives.

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