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Boundary Clock or Grandmaster? It’s Not “Or” – It’s “And”

A family of products that can be configured for multiple use applications.

Mobile operators have struggled with enabling products that do only one thing well. Until now. The TimeProvider® 4100 family is a precise grandmaster, boundary clock and ePRTC. Same hardware.

Your technology world is changing fast. If you’re a mobile operator, cable company, utility provider (power, water), transportation company (railway, subway, airport) or even the military, your network is changing quickly. Terms like 5G, Ethernet, fiber, protection, anti-spoofing and more are populating your daily worries. And another key term: precise time and synchronization. In addition to being a networking guru and security expert, now you also need to become a timing, location and positioning expert.  

How many products – and how much expertise – do you need?  

You likely hope someone will provide the right architecture and reliable, informed expertise. Is that happening the way it needs to – and can you trust the information? Or do you need to internally hire individual experts in all these fields? 

Traditionally, timing and synchronization have been separate areas. The main reason is few people have expertise but also because it’s critical to everything else working well – so can’t be overlooked or under-resourced. The beauty of earlier scenarios was, you purchased the right device, forgot about it, and it operated and collected dust for 20 years because it simply worked, and worked well. 

Now everything has changed – first with Ethernet and more recently with a capability that is becoming more and more critical: precision – indeed, high precision timing! Because all new networks require it. 5G needs it, cable needs it, smart grids need it and even autonomous driving, smart cities, and IoT need it. 

And, because timing is becoming more precise and requires not only the “easy” frequency use case but also the more difficult to achieve “phase,” you need enhanced technology in your network. 

Some “boxes” need to comply with the most stringent enhanced Primary Reference Time Clock (PRTC) – ePRTC. Some need to comply to PRTC-A (100ns), others to PRTC-B (40ns). Some boxes need not be a grandmaster but need to be a boundary clock – and here there also are various types: Class A or B or C or D … 

At this point, if it’s unclear what you need and how it should be implemented to ensure you maintain your source of time (and network performance), the criticality of specialized equipment is keenly apparent. 

Instead of a solution for each type of requirement or for each class of timing device – look to a solution that is the same physical device and same hardware, so you don’t have to spend months deciding which box is best at this location of my network, which one can meet 30ns, which one can protect your phase over an optical network over the whole country and which can guarantee meeting the precision budget at the very edge of your network. 

Microchip’s TimeProvider® 4100 is a device that can be used in various locations with different purposes and different configurations. 

The configurations are called operation modes. Select TimeProvider® 4100’s ePRTC operation mode – and your device can be connected to the Global Positioning System (GPS) and a Cesium atomic clock and be the source of your timing network, meeting 30ns as defined by ITU-T. 

Select High Performance Boundary Clock (HP BC) and it will act as the most performant Boundary Clock available, called Class D – which can meet 5ns time error. This enables you to connect a chain of these HP BC devices to cover very long distances over an optical network you probably already employ, so you can create a redundant, reliable, high precision network to transfer precise time and phase over your national network to protect your phase quality everywhere, without high dependency on GPS.  

Select the Gateway Clock operation mode to serve your base stations, eNodeBs, gNodeBs and small cells, in various locations, using multiple profiles. 

Deploy all of your precise time and phase requirements with the same TimeProvider 4100 technology – to ensure performance, accuracy and precision, using proven timing technology that is in operation around the world. 

Now that you know such a family exists and that you can rely on the performance of a proven solution, read more about TimeProvider® 4100. Microchip is a market leader in timing and synchronization serving diverse industries worldwide. Contact us directly for more information or contact our channel partners.  

Let our expertise, innovation and proven solutions meet your timing requirements. 

Eric Colard, May 11, 2020