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GPS vs. GNSS: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on March 20, 2024
GPS is a satellite-based navigation system owned by the U.S., while GNSS refers to the global collection of satellite navigation systems, including GPS.

Key Differences

GPS (Global Positioning System) is a satellite-based navigation system that was developed and is operated by the United States Department of Defense. It allows users around the world to determine their exact location with the use of satellites orbiting the Earth. GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System), on the other hand, is a broader term that encompasses all global satellite navigation systems, including GPS, GLONASS (Russia), Galileo (European Union), and BeiDou (China).
GPS provides location and time information in all weather conditions, anywhere on or near the Earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites. GNSS, being a collective term, refers to the technology that uses a constellation of satellites from various countries' systems to offer global coverage, enhancing the precision and reliability of navigation and timing services beyond what GPS alone can offer.
While GPS is specifically a single system comprising 24 satellites, GNSS utilizes multiple satellite constellations, thus offering improved accuracy, redundancy, and availability. Users of GNSS can access signals from multiple satellites from different systems simultaneously, allowing for more accurate and reliable positioning than using GPS alone.
The development of GPS began in the 1970s as a military navigation tool, but it has since become indispensable for civilian applications worldwide, including aviation, maritime navigation, and personal navigation devices. GNSS represents the evolution of navigation technology, integrating multiple satellite systems to meet the growing demands for precision navigation and timing in a wide range of sectors, from transportation to telecommunications.
GPS is a key component of GNSS, which itself is a global framework of satellite systems that provide enhanced capabilities over any single system like GPS. The distinction between GPS and GNSS is crucial for understanding the capabilities and limitations of satellite navigation technology in today's interconnected world.

Comparison Chart


United States Department of Defense.
Multiple global entities (US, Russia, EU, China).

Number of Satellites

24 satellites in the constellation.
Multiple constellations (100+ satellites).


Global, but with limitations based on the GPS constellation alone.
Enhanced global coverage using multiple constellations.


Accurate to within a few meters.
Increased accuracy due to multiple systems.

Systems Included

Only GPS satellites.
GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BeiDou, and others.

GPS and GNSS Definitions


GPS is a satellite navigation system used to determine the ground position of an object.
The hiker used a GPS device to find the way back to camp.


GNSS is used for a wide range of applications, from aviation to personal devices, ensuring reliable navigation.
The drone's GNSS capabilities allow it to fly precise routes.


GPS is a system of 24 satellites that orbit the Earth, offering navigation data to military and civilian users.
The pilot navigated the plane using GPS coordinates.


GNSS technology offers enhanced positioning services by utilizing multiple satellite systems.
GNSS receivers can pick up signals from over 30 satellites at once.


GPS stands for Global Positioning System, providing location and time information globally.
Emergency services used GPS to locate the accident scene quickly.


GNSS encompasses various satellite navigation systems like GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo.
Our navigation system uses GNSS technology to ensure global coverage.


GPS technology enables precise location tracking for navigation and mapping purposes.
We installed a GPS tracker in the delivery van to monitor its route.


GNSS systems provide critical data for geospatial and environmental monitoring.
Researchers used GNSS data to track wildlife migration patterns.


GPS devices receive signals from satellites to calculate the user's exact location on Earth.
She checked her GPS watch to see how far she had run.


GNSS refers to a global network of satellites providing signals for navigation and timing.
The new smartphones are equipped with GNSS chips for better location accuracy.


A navigational system involving satellites and computers that can determine the latitude and longitude of a receiver on Earth by computing the time difference for signals from different satellites to reach the receiver


What is GNSS and how does it relate to GPS?

GNSS stands for Global Navigation Satellite System, encompassing GPS and other satellite navigation systems.

What does GPS stand for?

GPS stands for Global Positioning System.

Can GPS work without internet?

Yes, GPS can work without internet as it communicates directly with satellites.

What is the primary purpose of GPS?

The primary purpose of GPS is to provide geolocation and time information to a GPS receiver anywhere on or near the Earth.

Do all smartphones have GNSS?

Most modern smartphones are equipped with GNSS capabilities.

How does GNSS improve on GPS?

GNSS improves on GPS by incorporating signals from multiple satellite systems, increasing accuracy and reliability.

What makes GNSS different from GPS?

GNSS includes multiple satellite navigation systems (including GPS), offering broader coverage and better accuracy.

Can GPS track speed?

Yes, GPS can accurately track speed by calculating the change in position over time.

What are the main components of GPS?

The main components of GPS are the satellite constellation, ground control network, and user receivers.

Is GPS available worldwide?

GPS coverage is global, allowing for positioning information anywhere on Earth.

Are GPS signals affected by weather?

GPS signals can be affected by atmospheric conditions, but generally, the system is designed to be reliable in all weather.

How accurate is GPS for civilian use?

GPS provides civilian users with accuracy within a few meters.

What applications use GNSS?

GNSS is used in aviation, maritime, road transport, science, and personal navigation devices.

How many satellites does GNSS use?

GNSS uses over 100 satellites from various systems combined.

What improvements does GNSS offer over traditional GPS?

GNSS offers better accuracy, reliability, and signal availability through the use of multiple satellite systems.

What future developments are expected for GNSS?

Future developments for GNSS include increased accuracy, enhanced signal integrity, and broader integration into personal and commercial technology.

Can I use GNSS for hiking or outdoor activities?

Yes, GNSS is highly beneficial for outdoor activities, providing accurate location data in remote areas.

Do GPS and GNSS require a subscription?

No, accessing GPS and GNSS signals is free; no subscription is required.

Does GNSS include indoor navigation?

GNSS primarily focuses on outdoor navigation, but advancements are being made for indoor positioning.

How do GPS satellites transmit data?

GPS satellites transmit data using radio signals to receivers on Earth, providing location and timing information.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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