Is your network PhaseReady?

attend the Phase Ready Seminar from Chronos

Phase Ready?

As you think about the evolution of your network, don't limit your thoughts to the frequency stability you need now. We want to help ensure that network roll-outs today will still be relevant come the explosion of HetNets and Small Cells.

Last few places available for Chronos PhaseReady Scandinavian Events

There are still a few places available for Chronos PhaseReady events taking place next week:

Tuesday 17 November - Sheraton, Stockholm
Thursday 19 November - Radisson Blu Royal, Copenhagen

The  Agenda is available here.

Register now if you are planning, or working towards the rollout of LTE-TDD or LTE-A services, and join our industry experts to discuss both the challenges and solutions available to enable you to deliver microsecond phase to the Network Edge in a manageable and supportable way.

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Agenda released for Scandinavian PhaseReady Seminars

The Agenda is now finalised covering topics such as Preparing for Phase Delivery and Operating your Phase Network.  Join us at our free events in Stockholm on 17 November and Copenhagen on19 November to discuss your phase synchronisation requirements.

Register here

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Scandinavian PhaseReady Seminars

Scandinavian PhaseReady Seminars

Supporting phase at the edge of your network is not just a technological challenge. Employing the right technologies in the right places - from the core to the edge of your network – is essential to ensure an available and economically supportable phase delivery network. Chronos' experienced team can ensure that network infrastructure is fit for phase and deliver the tools and services necessary for you to deliver phase wherever and whenever you need it.

Chronos is hosting PhaseReady 2015 events "Supporting your Network Phase" in Stockholm on Tuesday 17 November and Copenhagen on Thursday 19 November 2015.

Join experts from Chronos, Microsemi and Transmode at these free events to assist you with your phase challenges.  Agenda topics include “Delivering Resilient Phase Synchronisation in Transport Networks” and “Phase Synchronisation and Beyond”.

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Kings Place - another successful day

Thanks to everyone who attended our Kings Place (@Kingsplaceevent) event yesterday. I think it was a great success and as well as provoking thought about how best to deliver phase to the edge of the network in an operationally supportable way, we also had time to debate the future of engineering!

Use of TDD spectrum also had a good airing; interesting developments in Japan at 3.5GHz could mean phase is essential not only to ensure you use your own spectrum efficiently, but that you don't compromise your competition!

Special thanks to our independent Keynote speakers Zahid Ghadialy (@zahidtg) from TechUK and Hans Sjöstrand from Transmode.

 

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Free PhaseReady Event - London, Wednesday June 3rd

Registration is now open for the latest PhaseReady event at Kings Place London on Wednesday June 3rd. This is the latest in our series of events at this excellent venue, addressing the challenges and solutions available for timing in next generation networks as these networks, services and applications have evolved.

Entitled "Supporting Your Phase Network", we will be discussing the keys areas of preparing for, planning, testing, rolling out and monitoring your timing network to reliably deliver microsecond phase to the edge of your network.

We will be joined for keynote addresses from industry expert Zahid Ghadialy, Transmode's Hans Sjöstrand and Microsemi's Simon Butcher.

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Kings Place Agenda finalised

We've secured our Keynote speakers for this year's Kings Place event and the Agenda should give us a really productive and intersting day. You can register for free HERE.

Supporting Your Network Phase

View the agenda here»

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Do you understand how Phase will be delivered to the edge of your Network?

If you're planning, or working towards planning, to rollout out LTE-TDD or LTE-A services, do you know what technologies are available to you and how your network can support these? How do ITU Standards fit in with your network? If you will have Operational responsibility for a Phase Delivery system, how do you ensure you can support it in a timely fashion with the resources you will have available? What Element and Network Testing do you need to do to prepare for this, and how will you interpret any results?

How much of your network is in your direct control? Will you have the ability to be responsible for your own Timing Delivery? Will your voice be loud enough in your own organisation to make this a success? How much resource will you have for planning and preparation? How many PoPs do you have that can support deployments of equipment to support your Edge Timing? How well will your Edge Microwave support Phase Delivery? How will you keep an eye on Timing Delivery performance? How will your Timing Delivery cope with rerouting and Switch, Router and Gateway failure? How will your Timing Delivery cope with Timing Equipment failure?

That's a lot of questions and although we won't have the answers to all of them we do have a clear vision of the range of challenges you face, and the toolkit we have available to enable you to deliver microsecond phase to the Network Edge in a manageable and supportable way.

Come to our free event at Kings Place (http://www.kingsplace.co.uk/) on Wednesday June 3rd; I can't guarantee you will leave with fewer questions than when you arrive, but you will have the answers to most of them at your disposal! Register now for free at http://www.phaseready.com/index.php/8-main-content/11-register-for-phaseready-2015-event.

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Chronos PhaseReady Summit 3 June 2015

Supporting phase at the edge of your network is not just a technological challenge. Employing the right technologies in the right places in your network - from the core to the edge - will be needed to ensure an available and economically supportable phase delivery network. Chronos' experienced team can ensure that network infrastructure is fit for phase and deliver the tools and services necessary for you to deliver phase wherever and whenever you need it. Chronos is hosting PhaseReady 2015 Summit "Supporting your Network Phase" at Kings Place, London Wednesday 3 June. Reserve your place now.

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Donut or Doughnut - the wrong question?

Back in March I blogged asking whether you (well your phase delivery network actually) were a donut or doughnut person. The donut would be a ring of PRTCs (Primary Reference Time Clocks) at the edge of your network access layer delivering phase to Gateway devices and eNodeBs.The doughnut would have resilient (perhaps Caesium supported) PRTCs in your network core. The terms of this question were really about a battle of technologies as well as network architecture. I've since realised that this question is really not valid for a reliable supportable phase delivery network for TDD and LTE-A services that you are now on the verge of rolling out.

For me most of the technology issues are resolved (microwave links delivering phase being the most challenging), although implementations will vary wildly and standards have yet to catch up with real world network issues.

I think the key requirement for a phase delivery network is not the timing technology that underlines it but what happens when things fail! For example GPS directly connected at the eNodeB or Cell Site Gateway should easily deliver 1.5us at the air interface, but for how long will it continue to meet this requirement if some kind soul cuts through the GPS cable? Will it be long enough for your field force to get to site and effect a repair before the timing requirement is breached at an economic cost?

With this in mind I believe that the ideal phase implementation may well be a donut supported by a doughnut! I also believe this will be best delivered by an phase system independent of the network equipment. With PRTCs at the donut layer supported by PRTCs in the doughnut; especially if supported by Caesium in the core and Automatic Path Asymmetry Compensation (as implemented in the TimeProvider 2700) at the donut layer; next day mobilisation of field force could still allow fixes before the network edge breaks the 1.5us barrier.

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Chronos Technology and Semtech form partnership to deliver managed, PhaseReady™ network edge monitoring & timing solutions

Dramatically reducing the cost of supporting time-alignment in wireless networks including TDD and LTE-A                                                   

Chronos Technology, a global expert in time, timing, phase and monitoring systems, and Semtech Corporation (Nasdaq: SMTC), a leading supplier of analogue and mixed-signal semiconductors, are pleased to announce that they have developed a range of managed solutions which will reduce the transition to time or phase alignment in today’s advanced wireless networks where technologies such as LTE TDD and LTE-A will require more than just simple frequency alignment.

IEEE 1588-2008 Precision Time Protocol (PTP) has become well established as the leading technology for providing frequency, phase and time-of-day synchronisation over packet-based networks. However, deploying PTP-capable equipment in legacy networks can be highly disruptive and a prohibitively expensive upgrade in many cases. The range of managed solutions from the Chronos/Semtech partnership will address this issue enabling accurate delivery of time/phase, protect from GPS vulnerabilities and allow network monitoring. More>>

 

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GPS Timing - coming to the edge of a Network near you?

This may seem a strange title for many readers - if you have a CDMA network you've been working with GPS at cell sites for many years. Here in Europe however we have tended in the past to use the E1 used for backhaul to deliver the sync quality we need to deliver 15ppb at the air interface. We've also more recently delivered this frequency performance from the core of Carrier Ethernet networks using PTP and SyncE.
Should your GPS have a problem, the holdover oscillator (lets say an OCXO) kicks in and gives you time to get out to site and make a fix. Likewise the PTP client devices usually use OCXO for holdover, and although the time to fix is usually shorter than is the case for GPS there is still adequate time to mobilise for a fix.

So why consider GPS at the edge now? Well we're probably a year or so away from having to roll out TD-LTE, or LTE-A features, that require adjacent cells (Macro or Small Cells) to be within +/-1.5us of each other. Packet based timing from the core is still being tested and standardised; microwave radio manufacturers have a real challenge to make this work well (and they're doing great work to get there);and you may not have end to end control of the backhaul network in any case. These issues may or may not be performance affecting enough to put a brake on considering PTP supported by SyncE for phase, but you'd be a fool not to consider the alternatives.

So we examine GPS at the edge; its been done successfully for years, right? Trouble is the game has changed - its got a lot harder. We're all OK with your GPS timing solution locked and running as it should, but what about failure? As in frequency networks the holdover technology kicks in - but OCXO will only hold the +/-1.5us for probably four HOURS, not four DAYS! Have you got the budget, or indeed available power in the cabinet, to use OCXO? TCXO performance continues to improve in leaps and bounds so perhaps using the latest TCXO could give you three hours to mobilise. How is Ops going to handle this? Will you need vehicles parked at strategic motorway junctions waiting for equipment to fail?
On a practical level where can you put the antenna? Have you mast space and the personnel required to roll this out at thousands of locations? Can you hide the antenna in the cabinet? Will it see enough of the sky to work there? Could you roll out Assisted GPS (A-GPS) to help here? If you deploy antennas at low level how long before they're vandalised? Does your network design allow for other cells to provide backup sync? If your timing is embedded in the eNodeB do you have to swap out a whole box to solve a GPS or sync issue?

These issues are real and need addressing, but none of them are necessarily show stoppers to delivering a robust network with adequate phase performance. The trick is to know what the issues are and to address them head on. Don't hope things won't go wrong because they will. Examine the cases of Edge GPS and Phase from the Core from a position that with the right planning and testing they will work.

Make sure you and your network are Phase Ready!
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Edge Microwave - Transparent or Boundary Clock?

We've been fortunate enough at Chronos to work with several microwave equipment manufacturers in the last year or so, helping them develop and test their implementations of On Path Support for Edge Phase applications. We have seen some quite astonishing improvements in Packet Delay Variation (PDV) of PTP packets when implementing a Transparent Clock; actually in turning the radio link in to a virtual Transparent Clock.

All the manufacturers we have spoken to (of course this is not ALL manufacturers!) are implementing a version of this Transparent Clock. They have come to this conclusion independently, I think because they realise that the many variations that the radio link can encounter due to loading, bandwidth use, scheduling, weather or other external factors means that simply terminating the PTP flow at the link "Ingress" and generating a fresh flow at the "Egress" will not deliver the standard of output clock needed to support a living and breathing network.

I was surprised therefore when I discovered that manufacturers were under external pressure to deliver Boundary Clock rather than Transparent Clock. The main two reasons seem to be that use of Boundary Clock for Phase is now standardised whereas Transparent Clock is not, and that Transparent Clock breaks OSI Layer boundaries.

We are actually beginning some tests in the next week or so to start to characterise some microwave links' PDV and their effect on Boundary Clock performance. In my opinion the fact the the standards bodies can't keep up with technology should not be a brake on development, and is no surprise to any of us in any case! The Layer Violation argument seems a bolt on excuse to me - if the manufacturers believe Transparent Clock is the best way to deliver On Path Support then we should get on with supporting them in the standards!

A poorly working compromise will simply not do in the urban Small Cells space. We're in a different world now and what works should be what is implemented.

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Chronos and Semtech delivering managed PhaseReady network edge monitoring and timing solutions

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Small Cells Summit Roundup

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Small Cells World Summit - sync is creeping on to the agenda!

Had the pleasure of contributing to a panel discussion at the Small Cells Backhaul Summit at the ExCeL last week. We had half an hour on the topic "Time and timing distribution for small cells". My co-panellists were Martin Kingston, Principal Designer at EE and Richard Strike, Business Development Manager, Ethernet Access at ADVA Optical Networking; and it was ably moderated by Rami Yaron. The discussion really centred on getting phase to the edge of mobile networks, and how the business case stacks up to achieve this.

Now half an hour doesn't seem like much, and in fact the discussion could have gone on for a LOT longer, but it is half an hour more than last year's event! There were a lot of presentations in the Backhaul Summit that mentioned to various degrees how difficult getting phase to the network edge is going to be, but no real expansion on that at all.

I was pleased that my view of the world chimed pretty well with Martin's; I've known him for many years now and respect his judgement and so if we are in accord I know I'm doing something right! Interestingly the area where we parted company was an unexpected one for me. I've thought that Small Cells would be more expendable than Macro Cells, and that operators could probably stand availability levels less than the five-nines we're used to in the Core. Martin was quite clear that if it is on his network it needs to be available! This will have quite an impact on timing and backhaul technologies; and pose some interesting questions for Small Cell holdover capability.

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Chronos participating at Small Cells World Summit: 10-12 June 2014

Chronos participating at Small Cells World Summit: 10-12 June 2014

Wednesday 11 June 2014, 11:50 at London ExCel

Steve Newcombe of Chronos is participating in the Panel Discussion: Time and Timing Distribution for Small Cells at the Small Cells Backhaul Summit at 11:50 hours on 11 June.  Topics include the latest developments in timing standards and what this means for small cells; how timing equipment affects the network architecture; ToD sync methodologies in cellular networks; strategies for delivering ToD accuracy at low cost in LTE and small cell networks.

Chronos’ extensive practical experience in deploying industrial grade GPS systems, traditional synchronisation networks and current research with indoor UTC traceable time using the new eLoran technology has helped us to understand the real challenges operators face as they move to deployment of LTE-A services.  Phase synchronisation between macro and small cells must be achieved if key services such as eICIC and CoMP are to operate effectively and reliably.  Chronos is now offering a new range of services designed to help network operators assess and prepare their networks for these new challenges as they prepare to rollout LTE-A services.

Chris Roberts, Strategic Marketing Manager at Chronos said, “Achieving precise phase performance at the edge of complex networks now requires planners and installers to have knowledge of Radio Frequency (RF) engineering. Anyone can install a cable from a GPS antenna to a Grandmaster clock to enable a green LED to light but it is far harder to find contractors with the RF engineering skills to ensure it will operate as expected in large scale, complex networks. Chronos has this experience; come and talk to us.”

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Achieving phase synchronisation between macro and small cells

Achieving phase synchronisation between macro and small cells

Phase synchronisation between macro and small cells must be achieved if key services are to operate effectively and reliably.  With over 25 years’ experience in industrial GPS systems and network timing solutions, Chronos has now developed three services to help operators assess and prepare their networks for these new challenges.

PhaseReady™ Design and Test: A consultancy service that has already been deployed in a number of equipment manufacturers helping them prepare their products for the market. The service is tailored to meet the objectives of the client and a recent example was a study of the impact of enabling SyncE to support PTP timing transfer.

PhaseReady™ Core: A service that uses advanced tools to assess the suitability of existing GPS / SSU / Grandmaster system locations to supply phase aligned timing signals into the network for distribution.  In-house developed testing methodologies combined with the use of tools including TimePortTM to ensure the phase performance of key GPS sites is properly engineered.

PhaseReady™ Network: A service that works with network planning and operations teams to assess how best to engineer the sync distribution within the network so that the application performance requirements are met. This service identifies the design decisions and parameters in the network that may or are affecting the delivery of good enough phase to the application that requires it.

 

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Donut or Doughnut? Where will your Phase come from?

I've spent a lot of time since the beginning of the year talking to carriers and equipment vendors about the problems using PTP to get phase sync to the edge of networks. This includes talking to both the carrier and vendor about a network that is being installed this year and will need edge phase sync down the line. I've also spoken to two mobile carriers with very different philosophies of likely network rollout to achieve adequate phase sync, and another operator planning a network for rollout in a couple of years still to make such choices.

The fundamental choice seems to boil down to this - are you a donut or doughnut person? In much of the world a donut has a ring shape - hollow in the centre (center if we're following the spelling of donut!). Many believe they can deliver phase sync from "the edge of the core" or access layer. This would involve a layer of GPS PRTC / Boundary Clocks a minimal number of hops from the network edge - a phase sync "donut".

Here in the UK a doughnut is a disc shaped confection with no hole but a large amount of jam (jelly?) in the middle. In this case a smaller number of larger capacity and more resilient GPS PRTC devices would be deployed in the network core; disseminating phase sync through a network path that would probably demand full PTP awareness and on-path support.

Of course many factors in your network design could tip you from the donut to the doughnut - will you be deploying in largely legacy sites or is this a "green field" project; is it planned to have some or all of your traffic carried through a third party Managed Service; will you be using third party "dumb pipes" to transport your PTP packets for at least part of their journey to the edge?

Even if your LTE-A plans are a year or two away, you need to be thinking whether you are a donut or doughnut network. We at Chronos are developing "Phase Ready" tools to help carriers make these decisions, then implement and monitor them.

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An Independent Sceptic?

Very early in the development of PDH and SDH networks, carriers removed the timing functions from the network elements and implemented independent systems for time and timing dissemination and management. Interesting therefore that as timing requirements for edge applications are probably more stringent and difficult to achieve than ever, a large amount of timing dissemination and management is being taken back in to the network equipment!

What does that mean for you as a carrier? If you're a "bell head" traditional transmission person its a headache; if your a "net head" then perhaps not so much so. Fundamentally though to move microsecond phase coherence to the edge of your network you will need on-path support throughout (although don't jump to the conclusion that if you have on-path support that you will necessarily be successful in meeting all applications requirements).

But how well do these transparent and boundary clocks perform? What about the network in between them, especially if it is not in your control? Will the equipment vendor continue to support and improve their clock implementations for the long term? How do you manage failure scenarios? If you are using a managed service' phase implementation, how do you monitor its performance and hold them to account?

I think we at Chronos, and specialists like us, have a role to play in developing and maintaining your phase networks going forward. We can be that independent sceptic you need; one who understands the issues, can help with phase network design, verification, dimensioning and commissioning.

I will be developing these themes in the coming weeks and months. This is the biggest change in timing networks for at least twenty years and I believe we have the expertise and tools to help you make this process as pain free as possible!

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Will it be Worth All the Pain?

Excellent piece from Graham Finnie, Chief Analyst, Heavy Reading in Light Reading - MWC14: What Are Telcos For? - giving a "from the outside" view of the Congress.

His conclusion, or nightmare scenario if you're a carrier, is that the network could just be a commodity that customers pay a bandwidth and "line rental" fee for. Services are already migrating away from the carriers (why SMS when you have WhatsApp and iMessage; why call with WhatsApp Voice and FaceTime Audio) and will continue to do so.

Of course most of the services running on your network are customer rich and income poor, and so the opportunity for you to sell underlying services is not a great prospect; and you're one step away from Internet Bubble 2.0 bursting, and this one won't be your fault! You'll still get the blame for teenage porn viewing and cyber-bullying though.

Even if charges for service providers on your network were viable, you have the spectre of Net Neutrality hanging over your head. This is described as "the founding principle of an open Internet" and without it would be "the end of the Internet". Net Neutrality though means all traffic must be treated equally - not a good start for revenue generation! And what politician is going to side with you against "the little guy"?

There will be no sympathy for your plight of course. You have a reputation (deserved or otherwise) of milking your customers over many years; exploiting the mobile cash cow in the way Independent Television companies did in the 60s and 70s. A license to broadcast was a license to print money.

So now you're rolling out scalable, flexible Carrier Ethernet backhaul; implementing the tight Traffic Engineering you'll need to deliver microsecond timing at the network edge for all the LTE-A services to come; paying for more and more spectrum and then having the cost of your "old" 2G and 3G spectrum increased; and all for the prospect of an affordable monthly fee!

And will you make anything from a worldwide simulcast of Paul McCartney live from the Cavern (or a TV set that looks like the Cavern)? And who's fault will it be if its not delivered perfectly to any device anywhere?

The future's bright......

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