With ITSF (International Timing and Sync Forum) over for another year and the Calnex unicorns having caught their rainbows home, a couple of the Calnex team have shared their thoughts and insights from their four days in Dusseldorf!
Stefano Ruffini, ITSF Chair and Strategic Technology Manager, Calnex
‘It was great to see a record participation at this years conference with over 300 delegates, many new participants, from across 35 countries attending. While Telecom remains one of the main areas driving the need for timing across areas such as 5G and O-RAN, across the event it was evident that there is also growth in interest in synchronization for industries such as Power, Finance, Data Centers and Broadcast with an array of interesting use cases generating great and insightful conversation.
The hot topics for me were around;
Sync in Data Centers and PTM (Precision Time Measurement) bringing sub-microsecond precision at the end user.
The need to define GNSS-independent sync solutions for critical infrastructure.
Advance in atomic clock technologies and on solutions to connect primary reference time clocks (“cnPRTC” as specified by ITU-T), that can provide a highly reliable and accurate sync reference.
The emerging importance of sync monitoring in networks.
O-RAN and sync in fronthaul.
I am looking forward to seeing the new and innovative solutions that the industry will create and develop in response as we continue to address these ever-evolving timing and synchronization challenges.’
Bryan Hovey, Product Manager, Network Sync, Calnex
‘Changing times - It is odd to look back only a year with nostalgia but last year at Brighton was heady times for ITSF. It was the first post-Covid in-person ITSF and we a great turnout. Synchronization in Mobile networks dominated the discussions, and we were all looking forward to the continued speedy rollout of 5G stand-alone networks. We didn’t know it at the time, but we had a glimpse of things to come when a colleague from a Ukrainian operator stopped by the Calnex booth. We were discussing using the Sentinel Network Sync Analyzer for over the air testing and, in passing, he commented on the challenges of using GNSS around the black sea. A certain neighbour routinely jammed GNSS. Little did we know just how prophetic this comment would be.
Jump forward to 2022, international events have brought the vulnerabilities of synchronization into sharp focus. It is clear that the disruption of GNSS supplied timing represents a threat to the security of many critical industries including communications, finance, utilities, and transport. Previously, discussions focusing on GNSS vulnerabilities as the source of UTC into a network were highlighted only on the final day of the event. However, this year, virtually every paper that discussed the implementation of synchronization also highlighted GNSS vulnerabilities. This was not an indictment of the synchronization techniques we have been using but, instead, a reconfirmation of the importance of network provided synchronization using techniques like Precision Time Protocol (PTP). Network supplied sync provides a degree of resilience whether it is in an assisted partial timing support (APTS) configuration or using full timing support across the network.
Network provided sync still needs a reference (UTC), and after highlighting the issue for two days, the third day of presentations discussed some possible solutions to strengthening resilience in timing and to providing better sources of time in the network. The need to monitor the performance of network provided time was, also, mentioned several times in the presentations. Monitoring has been a hot topic in the standards committees as well with monitoring related additions being discussed in both the ITU-T and IEEE standards. Monitoring is of course a big area of focus for Calnex.’