If you use your smartphone for GPS navigation, or pretty much any other GPS receiver released in the past decade you can probably ignore the rest of this article. But if you have an older GPS receiver, it may malfunction on or around April 6, 2019.

That’s because the GPS system works to identify location using GPS Time, a “weighted average of GPS satellites and ground station clocks.” And GPS Time is about to reset on April 6th, which could cause some older devices to reset their clocks to sometime in 1980 or 1999… which would lead to inaccurate navigation results.


The problem arises from the fact that GPS time uses a 10-bit binary parameter for the week, which means it can only count to 1023, and then it resets to zero.

Newer GPS receivers should be able to handle the roll-over seamlessly, but if you have an older device like an in-car system, it may not be able to function properly after the change unless a firmware update is available.

That may cause some inconvenience for some folks that have been using the same navigation system in their automobiles for years. But the solution could be as simple as switching to your phone or buying a new device for your car.

It’s probably going to be a bigger headache for businesses and government organizations that rely on GPS. For example, the US Department of Energy notes that there could be an impact on electricity transmission and distribution if utility companies don’t take proper steps to prepare.

via ZDNet and The Register 


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6 replies on “Old GPS devices may stop working properly in April”

  1. I suppose I should hurry up and try to pawn off my old Garmin Nav unit that’s been sitting in a closet for the past 7 years. Probably already worthless.

  2. If I have any experience with decision makers in most companies, they just decide to ride it out on the old system till they retire. Then its the headache of the next guy.

  3. Hmmmm, im pretty sure this has already happened at least once almost 20 years ago, where GPS time “rolled to zero” and I don’t recall there being any issues. This does remind me of when everything needed to be Y2K compliant, like microwaves and blank CDs

    1. Yep, I was working for a big tech company at the time, and we put a lot of time into Y2K-proofing our products — successfully as it turned out.

      The only things I know of personally that failed were the drinks vending machines on the site! Oops.

  4. So the Energy Department already went through one rollover in 1999 but continued to expand the GPS integration WITHOUT incorporating the zero roll-over into the new stuff?

    1. The DoE doesn’t control that directly — they just make recommendations. If a private utility ignores them, things go south in a hurry, but they like to bleat about cost savings and crash into walls a lot.

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