GNSS/GPS Independent 5G Synchronization

Published on 25 Jul 2022

Independent, 5G Synchronization

Time synchronization, providing correct time and phase synchronization to the cell tower, is the new pulse of the 5G mobile network and a crucial feature for all 5G networks.

As a result of the greater usage of TDD and massive MIMO, as well as the needs for new services like eMBB, mMTC, and uRLLC, 5G networks have significantly more stringent time accuracy requirements than 4G networks. This leads to a rise in the expense and complexity of time synchronization in mobile networks and increased demands on the infrastructure's underlying components.

GNSS/GPS systems are often used to offer precise time synchronization in mobile networks. However, recent years' wars and harsh geopolitical environments have made operators aware of the fragility of GNSS solutions and the ease with which satellite signals may be blocked or manipulated. Multiple nations have stipulated that all 5g synchronization must be GNSS-independent in order for an operator to get a license.

Timing and synchronization drivers in 5G networks

Pure frequency synchronization is required for frequency-division-division (FDD) systems. 5G and LTE networks based on FDD can withstand a prolonged (> 1 hour) loss of sync. To minimize interference between the uplink (UL) and downlink (DL), time division duplex (TDD) systems utilized in the majority of 5G networks would need substantially tighter time and phase synchronization, down to below 1.5 picoseconds (DL).

In order to prevent interference between mobile phones and mobile systems, some uplink and downlink TDD patterns have been controlled as well, for example, across Europe. The networks of MNOs must be coordinated both inside and across countries.

GNSS-independent time is becoming a need.

GNSS comprises four primary satellite systems: (China), Galileo, and the U.S. (Europe). GNSS relies on satellites with a specified orbital location and time that send messages whose arrival is measured by the GNSS receiver. It offers an easy method for mobile networks to get a very accurate time. Any RF interference may cause major interruptions to the GNSS service due to the nature of the signals.

In 2019, the European Organization said that outages rose dramatically by well over 2,000 percent between 2017 and 2018 and continued to rise in 2019, with more than 3,500 reports of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) estimating the economic consequences of 30-day GPS outages as a combined loss to the U. S. economy of more than one billion USD per day, with up to half.

Validation via the use of real-world networks

Overlay synchronization solutions are fundamentally decoupled from the network transport and provide substantial benefits in terms of openness, both in terms of infrastructure technology and vendor independence.

The greatest benefit, however, is that it does not need a complete network upgrade to provide full on-path synchronization at each node. Still, it functions smoothly across heterogeneous and leased network infrastructures. Utilized and proved in other sectors, the capability has now been tuned for 5G networks.

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