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Network synchronization

Why timing and synchronization matter 

What is network synchronization

Synchronization is at the heart of telecom, utility, and industrial networks because it helps to enable critical functions (e.g. handovers between cell towers, timestamping of financial transactions, highly accurate monitoring of electrical grids) at distributed nodes that require a precise frequency and time reference.

Whether you're a mobile operator, carrier-neutral host provider, power utility, or industrial enterprise, you need to ensure that an accurate synchronization source is always available for smooth network operations. Having synchronization delivered over packet transport networks provides an alternate or backup to GNSS-based synchronization ensuring network operations can continue uninterrupted.

Why is synchronization important to your business?

Synchronization plays a vital role in telecom networks, smart grid applications, industrial networks and financial exchanges. Your business-critical systems cannot operate properly without accurate synchronization that keeps them within tolerable limits.

Networks typically source frequency and time/synchronization data using Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSSs). However, GNSS vulnerabilities due to natural phenomena such as interference from solar flares, jamming and spoofing threats, damaging storms, and line-of-sight limitations can impact business-critical operations. It’s prudent to have an alternate synchronization source to mitigate these factors.

Why synchronization over packet?

Packet transport networks have become ubiquitous because they provide increased bandwidth efficiencies and scalability. The standards for delivering synchronization over packet networks continue to evolve to accommodate the highly precise frequency, phase and time synchronization demands of new applications.  

For example, ITU-T developed the Synchronous Ethernet (SyncE) standard to distribute frequency synchronization over the physical layer of Ethernet transport networks using a master clock time reference. It has refined the standard with enhanced SyncE to improve synchronization accuracy. For phase and time synchronization, the IEEE 1588 Precision Time Protocol (PTP) was developed which includes profiles for applications such as telecommunications, electric power and time-sensitive networking.

Many operators are turning to network-based synchronization distribution using packet transport networks that support a combination of the PTP and enhanced synchronous Ethernet equipment clocks (eEECs). This hybrid model meets the precise timing and high network performance requirements of all time-sensitive applications. This includes meeting the strict requirements of the IEEE 802.1CM TSN for fronthaul standard, eCPRI transport networks, and O-RAN control, user and synchronization plane specifications.

By supporting synchronization over a packet transport network, you can benefit from improved resiliency and better visibility and traceability of the synchronization chain. This can help you simplify the synchronization OAM and PTP management of your network. With new tools that can automate these functions, you can simplify network operations and improve synchronization performance.

While most GNSS interference events have a short duration, longer events do occur. Solutions providing network-based synchronization over packet mitigate the effects of GNSS interference events.

Packet-based synchronization for all deployment scenarios

Our transport systems give you complete control over the way you deliver timing and synchronization across your network. They let you use GNSS receivers or SFPs to receive GNSS signals and distribute phase and time signals with PTP over the network. You can feed GNSS signals directly to equipment that has GNSS receivers or to a router or switch at a local or aggregation site to provide synchronization redundancy. 

Timing and synchronization options within the context of a mobile transport network.

Mobile backhaul and fronthaul

If you are a mobile network operator, you need to meet the strict phase/time synchronization requirements of your mobile backhaul and fronthaul networks. The full timing support profile (ITU-T G.8275.1) is recommended where telecom boundary clocks (T-BCs) are used to regenerate the timing signal along the path. These clocks must meet the class accuracy requirements dictated by ITU-T and IEEE. For example, Class A or B T-BCs are specified for backhaul, while Class C T-BCs with a maximum two-way time error of 30 ns are stipulated for fronthaul. Nodal T-BCs that provide better performance enable longer synchronization chains by reducing the noise and time error that are introduced into the synchronization path.


Nokia 7250 IXR synchronization demo

Highly accurate sync distribution - Achieving Class C T-BC performance with 7250 IXR.

Synchronization as a Service (SyncaaS)  

If you are a transport or neutral provider, you can become more competitive by playing to your natural advantages in edge and access networks. SyncaaS is a pure synchronization service that you can deliver to network subscribers such as MNOs. It is built on a standardizable set of services and service attributes and delivered independently of traditional connectivity services. SyncaaS uses hard isolation of the synchronization plane to provide the determinism that time recovery algorithms need to accurately recover time and phase.  

Network operators, utilities and financial institutions are looking to SyncaaS to solve their synchronization distribution challenges. SyncaaS will enable them to minimize their network spending, speed time to market and adopt cloud-like approaches that allow them to consume network services the same way they consume IT services and stop buying and maintaining network infrastructure.  

By offering SyncaaS to network subscribers, with the flexibility to serve up different timing and synchronization distribution services using different PTP profiles (FTS, PTS, APTS), you can boost your bottom line and get more from your network investment.

Synchronization for utilities and smart grids

If you are a power utility, you probably rely on GNSS receivers at primary substations to support smart grid applications that rely on accurate timing for synchrophasor measurements, line protection measurements and timestamping within SCADA systems. However, not all substations have these receivers and those that do are subject to signal disruptions caused by natural phenomena and intentional jamming and spoofing. Past studies of digital fault recorders found that more than half have suffered from GNSS timing loss.

Our packet-based transport networks provide an alternate synchronization approach eliminating the need for timing converters and GNSS clocks at substations. This approach involves distributing PTP timing to all substations connected to the packet network using power profiles such as the IEC 61850-9-3 utility profile and the IEEE C37.238 power profile. PTP timing can also be distributed from substation to substation to provide primary timing or to back up GNSS timing in case of signal loss.

Synchronization for the financial sector

Financial services and high-frequency trading applications require highly accurate, traceable and verifiable time synchronization. Financial regulations impose requirements for maximum divergence from a coordinated universal time (UTC) ranging from 100 microseconds to 1 second for different trading activities. For example, Europe’s MiFID II regulation framework calls for timestamps on messages issued by trading systems to be accurately recorded to within 100 µs. This allows authorities to precisely reconstruct events pertaining to financial transactions.  

Our packet-based transport networks address the accurate recoding of financial transactions to enable you to provide financial systems with accurate time information. Timing is sourced from a grandmaster clock tied to UTC and distributed using PTP to servers and financial computer systems. 5G can also be used to provide a traceable UTC time to financial hubs.

Full visibility into the synchronization layer  

Powerful tools to operate and manage the synchronization layer are important in achieving good synchronization performance and visibility of the network. We have demonstrated synchronization OAM leadership by building strong fault and performance management capabilities into our solutions. These build upon the initial implementations of the SyncE and PTP standards.  

Our solutions feature new fault and performance management functions based on ITU-T sync OAM standards that improve the monitoring, operation and maintenance of synchronization layer networks while offering homogeneity across vendors. This includes alarms and performance monitoring counters and functions as specified in ITU-T Recommendation G.Sup68 Synchronization OAM requirements. This lets you achieve enhanced and standardized synchronization operation and maintenance.  

Nokia packet optical transport systems such as the 1830 PSS and 1830 TPS fully implement and go beyond these standards by providing enhanced synchronization layer management, monitoring and supervision capabilities, as well as powerful network-layer synchronization management through the WaveSuite Synchronizer application. 

Nokia technology leadership

  • Demonstrated synchronization OAM leadership with strong fault and performance management implementation ahead of the publication of ITU-T G Suppl. 68
  • Support for ITU-T Sync OAM, which improves monitoring and simplifies the operation and maintenance of synchronization layer networks while offering homogeneity across vendors
  • Packet optical transport solutions that fully implement and go beyond the latest ITU-T standards to provide enhanced synchronization layer management, monitoring and supervision capabilities

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