GPS (Global Positioning System)

What is GPS?

GPS is a US-owned satellite-based navigation system which allows a device to track your location and help with navigation. It’s made up of several satellites, which ‘ping’ your location to earth, ground stations, and receivers (your devices).

It uses a different system to your network, and doesn't use cellular data or WiFi (although there are elements such as AGPS which can leverage your mobile network). Your device's GPS receiver will work without data or WiFi, however, you might find that you may not be able to see a background map displayed unless you downloaded it before you switched off data or WiFi.

On some devices GPS will still work even in Airplane Mode. You may also be able to pre-download maps for offline navigation and use GPS with the map without any network connectivity.

What does GPS stand for?

GPS stands for Global Positioning System.

How does GPS work?

GPS satellites circle the planet twice a day. Each satellite has its own unique signal which it transmits to earth – this then lets GPS devices decode the precise location of the satellite.

The receivers in GPS-enabled devices then use the satellite’s location to calculate a device’s location. The receiver sends out a signal to the satellites and measures the distance to each one by seeing how long it takes the satellite to receive the signal.

Once the GPS receiver on your device has several measurements from four or more different satellites, it can determine its position and show where you are on a map and give you directions.

How accurate is GPS?

GPS can usually track your location to within a few yards – however, some sensitive devices can figure out where you are to within a few inches.

Similar terms

4G | NFC