This contribution analyzes the fundamental performance limits of traditional two-step Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver architectures, which are directly linked to the achievable time-delay estimation performance. In turn, this is related to the GNSS baseband signal resolution, i.e., bandwidth, modulation, autocorrelation function, and the receiver sampling rate. To provide a comprehensive analysis of standard point positioning techniques, we consider the different GPS and Galileo signals available, as well as the signal combinations arising in the so-called GNSS meta-signal paradigm. The goal is to determine: (i) the ultimate achievable performance of GNSS code-based positioning systems; and (ii) whether we can obtain a GNSS code-only precise positioning solution and under which conditions. In this article, we provide clear answers to such fundamental questions, leveraging on the analysis of the Cramér–Rao bound (CRB) and the corresponding Maximum Likelihood Estimator (MLE). To determine such performance limits, we assume no external ionospheric, tropospheric, orbital, clock, or multipath-induced errors. The time-delay CRB and the corresponding MLE are obtained for the GPS L1 C/A, L1C, and L5 signals; the Galileo E1 OS, E6B, E5b-I, and E5 signals; and the Galileo E5b-E6 and E5a-E6 meta-signals. The results show that AltBOC-type signals (Galileo E5 and meta-signals) can be used for code-based precise positioning, being a promising real-time alternative to carrier phase-based techniques.
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