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Timing & Synchronisation

GNSS Timing & Synchronisation (T&S) is crucial to a variety of systems, including many critical infrastructures. For instance, modern assets such as 4G/5G mobile phone networks, banking systems and (smart) electricity grids demand high-accuracy time and frequency stability. Precise network synchronisation is essential for nearly all digital networks, and more stringent  stability requirements are expected to emerge as the user base for demanding applications continues to grow.

GNSS can be used to provide both Timing & Synchronisation:

  • Timing: GNSS provides direct and accurate access to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
  • Synchronisation: Synchronisation between receivers at different locations can be established and maintained using GNSS reference time. In addition, a master clock synchronises itself using the time provided by GNSS, redistributing this time to slave clocks disseminated within the systems.

Key stakeholders in T&S include telecommunication network operators, associations like energy operators and organisations (e.g. ENTSO-E), and regulatory bodies. Accuracy requirements start low for financial transaction synchronisation (order of milliseconds), with microsecond-level accuracy required for energy and most telecommunications applications. Beyond this, satellite communications-based systems require accuracy on the order nanoseconds.

Furthermore, there is an increasing need for reliable and resilient T&S information, which can be met by authentication GNSS signals such as those provided by Galileo. Due to the critical nature of these industries, GNSS system independence and continuity of service are also increasingly valuable. This helps to ensure the availability of signals.

New applications of GNSS-based T&S are likely to arise with developments such as the Internet-of-Things (IoT) and smart cities. Such developments also need accurate and reliable T&S information in order to support a myriad of potential digital applications.


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