GPS Tutorial

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It is mainly used to determine location, speed and time of users on the Earth. This tutorial covers GPS basics, GPS applications, references and provide link to GPS chips/modules manufacturers.

GPS (Global Positioning System) is one of the GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) GPS has a constellation of 31 satellites in service and is based on CDMA technology.

GPS System

 GPS system

Fig.1 , As shown in the GPS system consists of total 28 satellites orbiting around the earth divided among six different orbits. The satellites are positioned at the height of about 20,180 km. As the orbits, satellites are inclined to about 55 degree with equator. This makes four satellites visible all the time from any location on the earth as shown in the figure 2.

GPS system to determine position in 3D

As shown in figure-2, four satellites are needed to determine a position on earth in 3 dimensional space. Let us see how a satellite is used to determine distance by using the time interval of a pulse to reach from satellite to the earth.
Distance = transit time (sec) x speed of light (meter/sec)
Using 4 satellites, 4 unknown parameters can be determined which include latitude, longitude, height and timing error.

As shown in the figure GPS receiver measures T1,T2,T3 and T4.
• The arrival times of signals from the satellites at the GPS receiver.
• These are measured against its internal clock.
The more information the receiver has, the faster it can get a position.


As mentioned GLONASS stands for Global Navigation Satellite System.

Why we need A-GPS?

•   Time aspect - Approx. 38 seconds is too long for end user.

Option1: keep the GPS on, track satellites and keep ephemeris/ GPS time up to date to be always in hot start condition.
•   Problem is power consumption

Option 2: somebody provides relevant information whenever the user want to use his/her GPS receiver

Sensitivity aspect:
•  Cold start: physical limit to decode data around -148dBm
•  The GPS signal is below this limit when user is in building for example
•  getting information on satellites allow the GPS receiver to break the physical barrier
•  These are the reason for having Assisted GPS = A-GPS

A-GPS User plane vs Control Plane

User Plane:
•  Uses the Packet Switched network (TCP/IP) capability to bypass the Switched Circuit infrastructure.
•  Modification of cellular network is not required
•  Does not support location of emergency calls (in v1.0)

Control Plane:
•  Uses the Circuit Switched network for assistance data and communication
-RRLP for GSM (2G)
-RRC for WCDMA (3G)

•  Requires updates to several network elements
•  Supports location of emergency calls
•  An alternative to A-GPS is predicted/extended ephemeris
-But:ephemeris only, not position, visible satellite list, etc.

A-GPS protocols, SUPL

Secure User Plane Location is specified by OMA. OMA Secure User Plan Location as per document SUPL 1.0,V1_0-20070615-A.

A-GPS protocols,Control Plane,RRLP,GSM networks

•   Radio Resource LCS Protocol
•   3GPP ref: 44.031, v5.12.0
•   Test cases: 34.171 (OR 25.171) / 51.010 conformance specifications

GPS Applications

GPS is used for wide variety of applications which include Marine, Agriculture, mobile handset, ATM, railways, aviation, space, survey, timing etc.

GPS References

Refer following link for official information on GPS which include standards, specifications and applications from US Government.

GPS modules,receiver chip manufacturers

GPS system components manufacturer, READ MORE.

GPS-Global Positioning System Links

GPS Frame structure
GPS Receiver Chip
What is GPS
GPS Antenna
GPS Receiver Module
GPS Satellite
GPS Tracking System

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