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Alibaba, China Miltary Supplier Join Forces for BeiDou-Aided LBS JV

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August 20, 2015
Inside GNSS, September/October 2015

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Alibaba, China’s e-commerce counterpart to Amazon, has formed a joined venture with state-owned China North Industries Group Corporation (NORINCO), the leading arms and equipment supplier for nation’s military forces, to provide location-based services (LBS) based on the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS).

According to an announcement yesterday (August 19, 2015) by China’s state news agency Xinhua, the new Shanghai-based JV has ¥2 billion (about US$310 million) in registered capital, with the two companies both holding a 50 percent share, according to NORINCO Group.

Xinhuanet, Xinhua’s online channel, quoted an Alibaba statement as saying, “Location-based services are a critical part of the Internet infrastructure. We will provide better services to enterprises and developers by taking advantage of our strengths in cloud computing and big data sectors.”

A major supplier of tanks, anti-aircraft missiles, and high-explosive bombs to the People's Liberation Army (PLA), NORINCO is a major developer of BDS's ground-based augmentation system, which provides differential corrections and integrity monitoring for BeiDou satellites.

NORINCO Group has 46 member units, including the Northern Information Control Corporation, which recently contracted to purchase ComNav GNSS receivers as part of China’s National Continuously Operating Reference Station (CORS) Network. In June, another NORINCO subsidiary, the North General Electronics Group Co., LTD, released what it called the world’s first BeiDou police smart terminal, the BK919, which the company said indicates the BeiDou Industry "is becoming civilian and police-oriented."

China requires all the navigation devices sold in the country to be compatible with BDS, according to Xinhuanet.

In 2014, Hangzhou-based Alibaba spent $1.58 billion to acquire Chinese satellite navigation mapbase provider AutoNavi Holdings Ltd. Earlier this year, Autonavi launched LBS+, an open platform that provides access to Autonavi’s free digital map database and LBS “big data” analytic services.

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