Our lives need to be synchronized. We text, tweet, talk, watch and listen around the clock. And it’s all because we want to be in sync.

We like to think we’re sharing data, but consider for a moment the content of our messages. “Having coffee in Starbucks.” “Eating ice cream.” Or we send a selfie and no text is necessary. I believe these messages are sent not for their data content but because of our need for synchronization. They say, “I’m thinking about you. I want you to know that I’m thinking about you. Are you thinking about me?” 

Aren’t we really talking about syncing our social connections?

Over the years the requirements for social synchronization have become more stringent and immediate. If I think back 30 years to when I had a girlfriend in Finland, we connected by writing letters. The sync interval then was about two weeks. Our sync interval tolerance today is down to minutes, even seconds. So while a psychologist might question why immediate social synchronization has become so critical, a sync geek like me enjoys the challenge. This trend is defining my work as I design synchronization solutions for new mobile technologies.

Here’s the thing: Today mobile networks face increasing requirements for synchronization as use and demand skyrockets. The transport networks that once carried frequency synchronization have now been largely stripped of this capability for cost savings. 

Time synchronization is key to expanding the bandwidth for our calls, our tweets and our video, and new mobile networks need sub-microsecond alignment. Only when networks are precisely synchronized can performance and throughput be maximized. 

Luckily for video binge-watchers and pacemakers alike, new precision timing technologies are capable of bringing order and better performance to modern networks. Synchronous Ethernet (SyncE) ensures that the data bits transmitted at the physical layer are in step with frequency from a primary reference clock. While SyncE does not carry phase/time synchronization it pairs well with a newer protocol, IEEE 1588™, to maintain phase/time holdover in case of failure.

IEEE 1588™ is a precise time protocol (PTP) for delivering both frequency and phase/time synchronization. IEEE 1588™ is a packet-based protocol utilizing hardware functions to timestamp messages as they enter and leave grandmaster, boundary and transparent clocks. 

Various profiles have been defined for IEEE 1588™ to fine-tune timing support for different network applications. 

G.8265.1 works without any support from the network while G.8275.1 was developed to guarantee accurate phase/time synchronization by enforcing a hop-by-hop model. G.8275.2 helps address vulnerabilities of the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) with the notion of assisted partial timing support (APTS).

We need to remember that synchronization is not just for enhancing the throughput of mobile technology. It’s also an enabler for the billions of end devices that will make up the Internet of Things. Think Oculus Rift, and then some. We’re still very much in the speculation stage with regard to what precision synchronization brings to this new world of connectedness.

I recently co-authored an informative article to explain new sync and time distribution technologies and methodologies for The Journal, published by the Institute of Telecommunications Professionals. To learn more, the full article, written with fellow expert Sébastien Jobert, can be found here.