Pakistan may become the fourth country to opt for China's Beidou navigation system, a rival to the Global Positioning System developed by the United States, even as Chinese officials also look to make a case for it in India.
Beidou is set to increase its presence in the Asia-Pacific region, with Pakistan expected to become its fourth overseas customer later this month, international business director of Beijing BDStar Navigation Huang Lei, told sate-run China Daily newspaper.
Thailand, Laos and Brunei are the existing customers of the system.
Lei's company, which promotes Beidou system, will build a network of stations in Pakistan to enhance the location accuracy of Beidou.
These continuously operational reference stations will be built after the two countries sign a cooperation agreement. It is not clear whether the agreement would be signed during the forthcoming visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Pakistan on May 22.
Li will visit Pakistan after his visit to India, starting tomorrow.
While industrial experts estimate Beidou can trigger a potential market worth 225 billion yuan (about USD 37 billion) across China by 2015, Huang believes a huge potential market exists outside the country.
He said Pakistan, Thailand and India are major potential Beidou users in the fisheries sector.
The system can help fisher men send emergency messages to rescue centres, and also inform their families about the latest conditions aboard vessels through a text message service, he said.
China is expected to invest seven billion yuan (USD 1.13 billion) to support the development of the Beidou satellite navigation system by 2015.
"Industries related to the Beidou system are entering a booming development stage," Yang Qiangwen, a senior engineer at the China Satellite Navigation Office, said at the Fourth China Satellite Navigation Conference on Thursday in Wuhan.
According to the official figures, the central government has already invested around 3.5 billion yuan to boost industries related to the Beidou system.
The system is serving the Asia-Pacific region since December last year and aims to have a global coverage by 2020. The Beidou network has 16 navigation satellites over the region, with 30 more due to join the system by 2020.
China National Radio reported that China will build a national remote sensing system based on Beidou in an agreement of around two billion yuan (USD 317 million) with Thailand, the system's first foreign user.
Similar deals were signed with Laos and Brunei in late April. Laos will adopt Beidou in developing the country's agriculture, and to crack down on opium cultivation, while Brunei will use Beidou in building a modern capital, according to China's Ministry of Science and Technology.