Location-based technologies have continuously faced a major obstacle: the fact that satellite-based positioning is unavailable or significantly degraded in indoor and urban environments. A solution may exist in NextNav’s Metropolitan Beacon System (MBS), a next-generation “terrestrial constellation” that aims to bring GNSS-like performance to satellite-unreachable areas. By acquiring a commercial license to MBS, Broadcom is hoping to integrate the technology into its mass-market global navigation satellite system (GNSS) and connectivity and mobile platforms.

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The MBS beacons are installed terrestrially instead of in space, providing sufficient strength to indoor and urban markets even when a clear view of the sky is not available. The system is deployed in a similar way to a cellular network, providing consistent indoor positioning to every building within the area. MBS also offers both accurate horizontal positioning and altitude information, which is particularly important for urban environments. It uses its own FCC licensed spectrum. To date, MBS has been deployed in 40 US markets.

MBS is expected to complement Broadcom’s existing GNSS services, leveraging platforms and applications while minimizing implementation costs and easing service adoptions. A recent trial comparing the performance of location systems across urban, suburban, and rural areas in the San Francisco Bay area helped to validate MBS. In determining the location of callers during emergency calls, MBS successfully reported a valid altitude estimate for the callers’ locations. In doing so, it enabled floor-level positioning within buildings. The horizontal accuracy results also successfully reduced first responders’ “search rings” by 90% over the system’s nearest competitor.

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