• Technology from ADVA-owned Oscilloquartz is to underpin synchronisation for BT networks as they edge towards 5G.
  • ADVA also picked up BT recognition for sustainable solution development.

OSA Home Module

BT improves national network’s timing in preparation for 5G

Source: ADNA

BT is deploying high-capacity synchronisation technology from ADVA Optical Networking’s Oscilloquartz subsidiary to make better use of its spectrum assets. The timing solution will distribute stable and sub-microsecond accuracy phase and time-of-day information, according to ADVA, replacing BT’s old timing network, which is based on frequency-synchronisation.

BT will start using the new timing approach to roll out 4G coverage in areas with little or poor coverage, as well as to deploy 5G services across the UK as the next-generation network develops.

ADVA’s solution, in the shape of OSA 5430 and OSA 5440 modules integrated with its network-management technology, is set to be deployed nationwide by BT, featuring in ten core time-base-sites, 106 metro time-sites and almost 1,000 tier-one-sites at the network edge.

Tom Bennett, Director of Network and Product Services at EE, has previously estimated that the operator would need 1,000 edge computing centres across the country to deliver the type of edge experience and new services that 5G promises (BTwatch #303), and, as Gil Biran, General Manager for Oscilloquartz, noted, “this [timing] network opens the door to the IoT services of the future”.

ADVA’s modular grandmaster clocks support various timing protocols over multiple 10Gbps interfaces. They include:

  • Network Time Protocol (NTP, developed by David Mills at the University of Delaware in 1981 to be fault-tolerant and scalable).
  • Precision Time Protocol (PTP, codified via IEEE 1588 for local systems needing greater accuracy than can be provided by NTP)
  • Synchronous Ethernet (SyncE, an ITU-T timing standard).

ADVA says these attributes provide phenomenal holdover performance (which demonstrates how well systems remain in synch), even in the case of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) outages, thereby meeting ITU-T G.8272 primary reference time clock (PRTC) requirements. The technology can be combined with ADVA’s cesium clocks for enhanced PRTC levels of stability, accuracy and reliability, without GNSS.

BT Group Chief Architect Neil McRae said the output of the ADVA solutions would be “key to our 5G aspirations”. He also talked-up the modularity of the technology as a means of future-proofing the network, and the close cooperation that has been possible between teams from BT and ADVA.

Adding robust, highly-accurate phase and time synchronisation unleashes the full potential of our network… The OSA 5430 and OSA 5440 [modules] offer the robustness of hardware-redundancy together with the scale we require to meet tomorrow’s needs. Their modular design also means that our network is ready to support future timing technologies without further upgrades. Our close partnership with ADVA’s team and their Oscilloquartz timing experts is another crucial factor. It’s been clear from day-one that they understood our core requirement for a flexible architecture with superb levels of precision and protection.”

– McRae.

ADVA is a longstanding supplier of infrastructure solutions to Openreach, and has also worked with BT Group across a number of key areas of research and development, including close collaboration around NFV and SDN (BTwatch, #260, #263, and #273), and recently helping to construct the UK’s “first” quantum-secured, high-speed fibre network between BT Labs in Adastral Park and Cambridge University (BTwatch, #297 and see separate report).

The vendor is also active on 5G development, having jointly demonstrated network slicing technology at Mobile World Congress 2018, and working with Mavenir to explore 5G fronthaul options that fit more closely with BT’s infrastructure plans (BTwatch, #294).

More ADVA-wins in BT projects

Immediately before announcing the deployment of the network-timing upgrade, ADVA won BT’s Game Changing Challenge competition for the second time, with its Carrier Ethernet demarcation solution, part of its new FSP 150-GE102Pro Series, which is engineered to minimise carbon dioxide emissions across its lifetime.

The challenge is used by BT to promote sustainability-focused innovation, and has been run by BT over the past half-dozen years. The vendor was notably praised for a solution that aligned with a “circular economy” approach to minimising waste – an ethos that appears to be gaining traction with major telcos, at the very least as a buzzword.

This latest initiative takes an end-to-end approach to product ecodesign. Through circular economy design processes, ADVA is aiming to reduce [carbon] emissions in production, transportation, use-phase and recycling. In particular, the new release of its FSP 150-GE102Pro will be manufactured with a focus on optimising raw material intake and recycling output. ADVA is targeting major reductions in its carbon footprint, while also driving down cost and creating a blueprint for further sustainability drives in other technology areas.”

– Hari Sundaresan, Chief Procurement Officer, BT.