In the past couple of articles in this series, my colleague, Barry Dropping, wrote about wireless networks, specifically laying the groundwork for 5G and the standards for distribution of time and phase in these networks. In this article, I’d like to share why network-based time delivery for 5G networks makes sense.
If you look at 5G from a timing perspective, there are a couple of key takeaways. The first one is the need for low latency solutions. For 5G, there are going to be tighter latency requirements than 4G, moving probably from milliseconds to microseconds. So how do you achieve that? One way to achieve that is by distributing intelligence across the network and moving some intelligence components into the radios themselves. The other way to do it is going to be to increase the speed of the transport equipment and the switching equipment, which is already underway in the initial testing we see for 5G.
We also talk about scalable synchronization and scalable synchronization solutions if we’re going to exponentially increase the amount of radios in the network. With a lot more radios, if we use GPS as an option in the radios, and you have a lot of radios in the same cluster with GPS, if that GPS were to fail, you’re going to introduce interference into the other radios in that cluster. Each failed radio would have to be taken out of service! So in many cases for 5G, it may make more sense to move to a network-based time and delivery method, which is really a 1588 or PTP-based solution.
Of course, if we move in that direction, there’s always the option to use both GPS and PTP or a network-based delivery timing service as a backup option. That means if you have something like a grandmaster and a common timing source for all the radios, if there’s a GPS failure on the grandmaster, all the radios would remain in phase with each other and the relative phase alignment between the radios could be maintained. You would not have to take those radios out of service.
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In the next article in this series, I will write about 5G timing trends and how requirements are evolving.
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