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Craig Mason
Engineering Manager
Asked a question 2 years ago

What is the difference between GPS and GLONASS?

What is the difference between GPS and GLONASS?

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Ross Kim
Geotechnical engineer

GPS (Global Positioning System) and GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System) are two systems of satellites with the primary objective to provide an accurate positioning in terms of latitude, longitude and altitude to any reciever on the planet surface.

GPS is a system launched and maintained by the US while GLONASS by Russia. GPS was launched four years earlier than GLONASS. The latter began production in the USSR days back in 1976 and was launched in 1982. GLONASS after being refueled in Vladimir Putin’s precidency has put up all 24 geostationary satellites required to provide complete coverage. GPS on the other hand was launched with 22 and now has 31. GPS is overall considered to have a better accuracy though GLONASS has a better accuracy as we go closer to the poles.


Global Positioning System (GPS) refers to the NAVSTAR Global Positioning System, a constellations of satellites developed by the United States Department of Defence. At first the GPS was made for military use only, but later made accessible to civilians as well. But recently, GPS is most widely used GNSS satellite constellation in the world.


Globalnaya Navigazionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema (GLONASS) is an acronym which is translated from Russian, this means Global Navigation Satellite System. It is accessible for both military and civil use and also provides real time position and velocity determination.

The main difference between GPS & GLONASS is that, with GPS satellites use the same radio frequencies but have different codes for communication while GLONASS satellites have the same codes but use different frequencies, allowing satellites on the same orbital plane to communicate.

For starters, the US GPS network includes 31 satellites, while GLONASS uses 24 satellites. The 2 systems also differ somewhat on accuracy. GLONASS position accuracy is 5-10m while GPS is 3.5-7.8m. As far as frequencies go, GLONASS operates at 1.602 GHz and GPS at 1.57542 GHz (L1 signal).

There are no significant advantages of GLONASS over GPS other than GLONASS’s better accuracy. When used alone, GLONASS doesn’t provide as strong of coverage compared to GPS.

GLONASS is a great back-up for GPS. When GPS signals are lost (like when you’re between tall buildings) GLONASS has your back.