The new year is almost upon us and so it’s time to look ahead. What will be the hot trends in network timing, and what technologies will change the synchronization game in 2020?

Time for precision

2020 will see more applications requiring greater levels of network timing accuracy, and that means the migration to IEEE 1588 Precision Time Protocol (PTP) will accelerate. This is already happening in many verticals with examples in the power utility industry, financial sector, cable networks and in enterprise data centers.

The year of 5G 

In telecommunications, 2020 will be the year 5G truly takes off, boosting the speed, coverage and reliability of mobile services. But while early 5G deployments use 5G spectrum and are based on Time Division Duplex (TDD), in many cases they are not yet delivering the full 5G potential. Getting to the next level will require very strict phase alignment and so synchronization solutions for phase and time delivery that offer massive scalability will be key. 

Syncing slices

The trend towards TDD will continue but, as we go deeper, we’ll start to see advanced 5G architectures such as network slicing. This enables a single physical infrastructure to be divided into multiple logical virtual networks, enabling a diverse range of services. What it will require is a new type of fronthaul network that uses enhanced common public radio interfaces (eCPRI). PTP and SyncE will be essential here for syncing different elements in the fronthaul network.

New PTP standard

Earlier this year, the IEEE approved a new revision of IEEE 1588, and 2020 will be the year when many of its enhancements and features will be incorporated into synchronization equipment. These include enhancements for security and improvements to accuracy that will be crucial in tomorrow’s networks and applications. In telecom, ITU-T SG15/Q13 is working on upgrading sync specifications for fronthaul networks, dealing with both clocks and architecture, and these are also expected to come to fruition in 2020.

Smart GNSS assurance

With the trend towards more GNSS receivers being used in critical infrastructures, vulnerabilities to jamming and spoofing are a growing concern. Technologies harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have begun to revolutionize network performance monitoring and diagnostics. In 2020, we’ll see AI and ML having a major impact in network synchronization assurance and GNSS assurance in particular.

Multi-band technology

Other techniques for mitigating GNSS vulnerabilities will also become more popular in the next 12 months, including PTP backup and the use of accurate and stable cesium clocks. Also, while most of today’s synchronization networks rely on single-band receivers, multi-band technology has now arrived. New solutions like ours receive GNSS signals in several frequency bands and use the propagation delay difference to calculate and compensate for ionospheric delay variations in real time. This method enables nanosecond accuracy and a new level of precision in primary reference time clocks such as us PRTC-B and ePRTC.