The Importance of Precise Time Synchronization
Precise time synchronization is critical for the operation of many technologies and infrastructure in today’s digital world. Time-sensitive applications need precise timing which can come from GNSS time servers or Traceable Time as a Service (TTaaS)
While using a public NTP (NIST/NRC) has been sufficient for some use cases, many applications require far more precision, that GNSS time server or Traceable Time-as-a-Service (TTaaS) solution offer which can deliver the high accuracy and guaranteed traceability needed.
Critical Applications that relay on Precise Time
- Financial Services – Require an accurate log of the timing and order of transactions such as withdrawals, deposits.
- Financial Trading - Stock exchanges and high-frequency trading firms require precise timestamping to properly record transaction times, prevent fraud, and enable fair trading. Timestamp errors of even a few milliseconds can lead to trading advantages and losses of millions of dollars.
- Power Grids - Electrical power grids depend on accurately synchronized clocks to properly distribute power and avoid outages. Clocks in the power grid must be synchronized to within 2 milliseconds of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Failure to do so can lead to power outages affecting thousands of people.
- Telecommunications - Cellular networks, broadband infrastructure and satellite systems rely on precise timing for technologies like location services, billing systems and network synchronization. Inaccurate timekeeping in telecom networks can disrupt services, enable fraud, and reduce network security.
- Manufacturing Robotics and automated operations require precise time across different digital systems to time a series of automated operations are done in a particular order.
- Broadcast Media requires precise time between audio and video feeds to prevent lip sync error giving a great user experience.
- Data Networks a narrow drift is needed for distributed transactional apps/DBs, accurate ordering of logs.
- Network security logs with accurate time stamps can help cybersecurity experts learn about exactly when and how attacks happened.
- Gaming E-Sports require precise time sync to ensure the chronological order of play in multi-player games.
- Public Safety requires accurate time for coordination between and among systems and agencies, as well as for time stamping event records to provide legal evidence of emergency response times in court.
These are just a few examples of the myriad organizations for whom time synchronization is critically important. There are two different time protocols commonly used by these industries: network time protocol (NTP), which offers accuracy levels typically within tens of milliseconds, and the more accurate precision time protocol (PTP), which offers accuracy levels typically within the sub-microseconds range (microseconds and nanoseconds).
3 Time Source Options.
Public Time Source
Public Network Time Protocol (NTP) servers provide a free and convenient way to synchronize clocks on your network. However, for time-sensitive applications that require precise time synchronization, public NTP may not meet your precision requirements.
Public NTP servers, such as those provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) or National Research Council (NRC), provide access to accurate time reference clocks over the Internet using the NTP protocol.
While public NTP servers can typically provide time synchronization to within 10 to 100 milliseconds for most networks, the accuracy can be affected by factors like network latency, packet delay variation (jitter), and packet loss. The latest survey of the NTP time server network from MIT uncovered two problems: the number of bad time servers on the internet, as well as the unbalanced load. Only 28% of the time servers indicated as stratum 1, and appeared to be actually useful.
Public NTP time servers also open up your network to a security risk as you need to open UDP port 123 in the firewall for the NTP packets to get through. This can be easily exploited in a “Denial of Service” attack which can effect the reliability and accuracy of public time servers
For time sensitive applications that require highly precise time synchronization, public NTP may not meet the precision requirements. In these cases, other time synchronization solutions like satellite-based timing using the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) or Traceable Time as a Service (TTaaS), gives your business complete control over your time synchronization solution
GNSS Time Server
Global Navigation Satellite Systems like GPS, Galileo, and BeiDou broadcast precise timing signals that allow time servers equipped with a GNSS antenna to determine the time to within 100 nanoseconds or less by when using multi-constellation and multi-frequency GNSS.
Consideration with GNSS time servers is the oscillator selection, which give stability to your environment should you have loss of GNSS signal due to loss of antenna or loss of GNSS signal due to GNSS jamming. With the increase in GPS jamming and spoofing we need to now consider how to mitigate this using IDM technology
Traceable Time as a Service (TTaaS)
For organizations that need extremely precise timing but lack the resources to operate their own timing infrastructure, or wish a back up to GNSS, Traceable Time as a Service (TTaaS) provides a convenient solution. A TTaaS solution provide a precise timing signals, time synchronization, and timestamping that is managed for you by a third party. TTaaS can distribute timing with precision down to a few nanoseconds
TTaaS solutions are built on timing data centres thar are strategically distributed around the world , with backup systems and built in redundancy in place to mitigate any single point of failure to ensure maximum uptime. By combining multiple timing sources and a global, fail-safe network infrastructure, TTaaS gives customers peace of mind that their precision timing needs will be met continuously.
Precise Time Suppliers
Precise timing and synchronization are critical for the operation of many technologies. While public NTP servers may meet the needs of some networks, they cannot provide the high precision required for time-sensitive applications. For precise time synchronization, Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) and Traceable Time as a Service (TtaaS) offer highly accurate, secure methods to distribute precise time