GPS date rollover affects older GPS units

On April 6th, 2019 older GPS units may experience a range of problems because of a limitation in how they handle dates.  Those problems could include not being able to receive location data.  It turns out the way dates are stored in older GPS units has a rollover event every roughly 20 years and we are about to experience the second one since the GPS constellations came online.  The rollover last happened in 1999, but in the last 20 years the use and dependence on GPS has increased dramatically.

The Department of Homeland Security has published a bulletin on the upcoming rollover, as has the Coast Guard.  Both bulletins make reference to a new GPS spec (IS-GPS-200) that deals with these rollovers gracefully.  Unfortunately, the bulletins also warn that not all implementations of the new specification work properly and some GPS units might be prone to trouble either at the 4/6/19 rollover or later.

The underlying problem stems from the way GPS units store dates.  The original specification for GPS had dates stored by week in a 10-bit field (2^10 or 2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2) which is 1,024 weeks.  1,024 weeks is 19 years, 36 weeks.  Dates for the GPS constellation start at midnight on January 5th, 1980, so the first rollover occurred on August 21, 1999.  Now, 19 years and 36 weeks later the same thing will happen again on April 6th, 2019.

Furuno has stated their units will experience the rollover on March 17th, 2019, almost three weeks earlier than the published date in the notices.  Furuno has a list of affected units as well as information on how to cold start the units to restore location information.  It appears the date will remain wrong but the location services should function correctly.  The affected units appear to all have been introduced in the early 2000s and ended sale around a decade ago.

Raymarine has posted to their forum that they are confident most of their recent hardware (Axiom, a/c/e/eS-Series MFDs and Raystar 130 & 150 GPS receivers) are unaffected.

Garmin has published a support article indicating they don’t expect trouble for their units as long as they are running current software.



Most of my research indicates the trouble is likely to be restricted to some possible restarts or even factory defaulting of equipment followed by potentially incorrect dates.  I don’t believe it’s likely much equipment will end up fully broken but do think it’s prudent to check the accuracy of your GPS equipment around the 4/6/2019 date, especially if you have older navigational equipment.

 

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Ben Stein

Ben Stein

Publisher of Panbo.com, passionate marine electronics enthusiast, completed the Great Loop in 2017.

12 Responses

  1. Richard Cassano says:

    Thanks Ben S, The way I interpret the post is that all installed GPS units are suspect until tested with the latest manufacturers software update. So, if you are in the market for a new chartplotter/ GPS when is it safe to assume the product has the correct rollover date sequence and will last for 20 more seasons? I would hate to buy new and find out the GPS has the wrong date and a half baked patch to keep it alive.

    • Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

      Richard,

      I would read it a little differently. The government agencies have stated that older GPS units will have problems and some newer units with poorly implemented versions of the new spec could also have problems. The manufacturers of the units have come out and said we know these models are good and some of our older stuff may have problems. I think it’s implied that the manufacturers have tested the units they say are good and I would be pretty happy to rely on that testing. All of the marine electronics manufacturers discussed are pretty skilled in GPS implementations so I would be surprised to see any of them poorly implement such a fundamental part of their products.

      Ben S.

    • Matt Cross says:

      If it’s anything you can buy now from any name you’ve heard of in marine or consumer electronics, it’s nothing to worry about. The suspect units would be from 20 years ago, and nearly unusable anyway. They’re sitting in the bin next to your LORAN. I was thinking I’d dig out my 1997 Garmin GPS III to test, but realized I chucked it long ago…

  2. Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

    Hmmm… Since I put up this article the Garmin support link has gone dead. I confirmed the link is correct but Garmin has taken down the support entry.

  3. I have confirmed with Hondex (popular among commercial fishermen in Maine, Canada, and elsewhere) their plotters are not affected by this event. We are a distributor.

  4. Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

    Gizmodo had picked up the thread today. They don’t have much more knowledge than we do and I suspect their Y2K comparison is apt in terms of impact, but maybe I’m blindly optimistic.

    https://gizmodo.com/the-y2k-moment-for-gps-systems-is-just-a-month-away-1833125742

  5. Daniel Field says:

    Any published information anywhere regarding GPS Rollover in relation to Thrane Thrane SAT C units ?

  6. Dan Corcoran Dan Corcoran says:

    Garmin Date Rollover statement is here since at least Saturday.
    https://support.garmin.com/ms-MY/?faq=zWQY6Z2kFiAuY9kDnDBgZ6

  7. Howard says:

    Raymarine information updated on April 4. Look at the file link for specific model information, for example, the RS125 GPS sensor on my boat could have date issue in 2022.

    http://forum.raymarine.com/showthread.php?tid=7453

  8. Jim Hebert says:

    My Lowrance legacy HDS-8 multi-function display with internal GPS receiver continues to work properly following the GPS Week Rollover event.

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