China's satellite-navigation industry and location-based services are set to play an increasingly important economic role in the next decade as the nation invests further in the emerging industries.
The Beidou satellite system, which is scheduled to come into commercial use by the end of the year, will help boost demand, industry insiders said.
The turnovers of China's satellite navigation industry reached 70 billion yuan ($11 billion) last year, and the figure is expected to hit 400 billion yuan by 2020, said Miao Qianjun, secretary-general of the Global Navigation Satellite System and Location-based Service Association of China.
"Because the satellite navigation service is more and more related to people's daily lives, China's civil navigation providers are likely to experience rapid growth during the 12th-Five Year Plan (2011-15) period," said Miao, adding that the government should implement more policies to support the emerging industry.
In 2011, China put the geoinformation industry on a list of strategic emerging industries.
Earlier this month, Wang Chunfeng, deputy director-general of the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation, said the government is likely to introduce policies to help the geoinformation industry grow.
In addition, the nation's self-developed satellite navigation network, the Beidou Navigation System, will come into commercial use by the end of this year, a move that may stimulate the development of the geoinformation industry in China.
The 16-satellite system, which will cover the Asia-Pacific region initially, plans to have 30 satellites to complete the system by 2020.
The system is set to realize global coverage by then, Miao said.
However, some industry insiders argued that Beidou has a long way to go before being accepted.
"Similar to the GPS program developed by the United States, the Beidou system is slowly moving from military use to industrial use, and large-scale commercial use is years away," said Cao Hongjie, vice-president of Beijing UniStrong Science and Technology Co Ltd, a maker of navigation devices.
The most important strategy for industry players is to look for ways to integrate the technology with other related customer-oriented sectors, such as mobile Internet, Cao said.
"Although more than a dozen Chinese navigation companies and location-based service providers have issued IPOs, the entire industry remains vulnerable to global competition," said Miao. "The industry players have to rely on themselves in many areas, including innovation and market exploring."
The government will launch a campaign to trim the country's navigation service industry by disqualifying device makers that can't meet national standards, Miao said. He did not elaborate.