NTP TIME SERVERS: IS IT iRIG OR iRig? NO MATTER, INNOVATIONS ARE HAPPENING WITH BOTH

Invariably, things change. Profound I know, but even in the world of the venerable IRIG timecode there is a new search engine contender, iRig. Granted, a new guitar interface adapter for your smart phone app is a far cry from a waveform used to synchronize instrumentation, but even in IRIG there are revolutionary changes happening. To which we can collectively ask, “why did it take so long to do something so obvious?”

Here’s a little backstory: IRIG stands for Inter-Range Instrumentation Group, but is commonly the term used to refer to the waveforms passed through coaxial cables used to synchronize the time-of-day on test instrumentation used on military test ranges. These IRIG timecodes date back to mid-last century when military test ranges needed a way to time align all sorts of measurement equipment, videos, radars, strip chart recorders, etc. for flight tests conducted over the vast geographical expanse of the test range. While the formats and accuracy of the IRIG timecodes have evolved over time, IRIG in general is still very widely deployed.

For decades, generating an IRIG timecode took discreet electronic hardware and components to generate the waveform. Flexibility was characterized by DIP switches to choose IRIG formats and plug-in modules filled with BNC connectors inserted into 1U, 2U and 3U rack mount chassis. In fact, as far as I know, with one exception, all solutions offered today still deliver IRIG this way. Of course, it’s that one exception that, like a guitar interface to your smartphone, changes everything.

Innovation is often driven by someone asking, “Why can’t I just do this instead?” This is exactly what happened in IRIG timecode generation, selection and output in the Microsemi SyncServer S650. A bright timing scientist asked, “Why can’t we just take everything we do in IRIG hardware and program an FPGA to do it?” Marketing then comes along and promptly agrees with innovative ideas they don’t have to figure out how to make work. They give it a name – “FlexPorts” – and a new era in IRIG timecode generation is born in the Microsemi SyncServer S650 FlexPort™ option.

I must say that FlexPorts are obvious, innovative and cool. Imagine a module with a collection of BNC connectors that plugs into the 1U SyncServer S650. The module has its own web page in the intuitive SyncServer web GUI. You can navigate to the module web page, which is organized like the physical BNC connectors on the module, and merely select from drop down menus which IRIG signal you want to output from each connector. Configure each connector waveform output any way you please as it supports a lot more waveforms than just IRIG, press “apply” and viola! Those signals are all instantly being generated and output, all synchronized to the main clock and as perfectly aligned to each other as you can get. No changes to physical hardware, no removing modules and flipping DIP switches, no installing a module that has 3-4 connectors when you just need one. FlexPorts really are a pretty cool technology.

At this point, I suspect that you might be a bit underwhelmed, and that’s understandable. The FlexPort concept is a bit obvious and the next question is probably “Why did it take so long to figure that out?” Well, like the wheel, its benefits were obvious to some, but not to all. The Smithsonian asserts that wheels were used as potter’s wheels for 300 years before someone used them on a chariot. Not sure what a wheel-less chariot looks like, much less rides like. And kudos to the guy that figured out a stone potter’s wheel on a chariot was a non-starter and that wood was a better choice, but I digress. We’re now very glad we have wheels and we’re very glad we figured out how to use an FPGA to generate IRIG timecodes on demand instead of expensive, inflexible, purpose built IRIG timecode modules with discrete hardware parts.

If you want to learn more about FlexPort technology and what it can do, have look at the FlexPort Technology for SyncServer S650 application note here. If you have been at all involved with IRIG timecodes I think you’ll agree that while iRig for your guitar app interface may be novel, FlexPort technology for saving time, money, and ease-of-use in deploying a precise IRIG time synchronization solution like the SyncServer S650 makes a lot of sense.

RACE FOR 5G COMMERCIALISATION RELIES ON BIG AND SMALL PLAYERS

The UK government has recently permitted the use of Huawei technology in the nation’s mobile networks (albeit, the radio access network or “non-core”). Without getting caught up in a debate about security, we should focus on what this signifies to the industry; that the UK is serious about 5G, and does not want to limit its options of technology suppliers in the race for 5G commercialisation.

The UK has maintained its focus on 5G development for a number of years. In 2015, the 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC), which has received considerable government funding, was opened at the University of Surrey. Since then it has supported pioneering research into the benefits of, and the obstacles preventing, the adoption of 5G technology. Supported by consultants, such as our very own Dr Li-Ke Huang and major telcos such as EE, Vodafone and Samsung, 5GIC epitomises the UK’s commitment to 5G.

However, the government’s investment in 5G doesn’t stop there. In March 2018, it announced the winners of a 5G test bed and trials competition, which saw a number of other enterprises, universities and authorities receive grants of between £2 million and £5 million to test 5G applications. In November, almost £7 billion was earmarked by the government to make 5G and fibre roll-out a reality over the next 10 to 15 years. It’s also worth noting that the UK was quick off the mark to auction 5G spectrum, a process which started in March last year.

The UK has clearly demonstrated its continued dedication to becoming a 5G leader. However, last week’s news regarding Huawei was a big wake-up call to technology firms, highlighting the importance of demonstrating their security credentials in order to play a role in the nation’s new next generation networks. Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, Samsung and ZTE are among the major network equipment manufacturers (NEMs) that will be considered for 5G networks. However, it is very common for the NEMs to white label technology from other technology vendors. The objective for these vendors is to prove to both the NEMs and the mobile operators that their technology can make a difference; and do so quickly, in line with the UK government’s ambitious plans.

Telcos warm to multi-vendor technology

Mobile operators are increasingly open to using network hardware and software from multiple technology providers within their networks – giving them a selection of best in-class solutions. Open initiatives such as openRAN (oRAN) and Telecom Infra Project (TIP) are providing operators with blueprints for the implementation of multi-vendor technology across the network. This approach can lead to improved flexibility, scalability and cost saving for operators, and new opportunities for vendors, big and small.

With the first wave of 5G networks focussed on non-standalone technology – i.e. networks that connect to new 5G radios and the LTE core – there is an opportunity for RAN vendors to showcase their credentials in this first wave of 5G deployments. To do this successfully they must test and validate their technology against a range of real-world 5G applications.

A testing time for 5G vendors

5G technology presents a range of new innovations, from the use of active antennas, to MIMO and 3D beamforming, software defined components, and large carrier bandwidths. However, these innovations also bring new challenges when it comes to verifying the performance of the technology.

Massive MIMO, for example, requires the use of large number of antenna elements which will add a huge amount of complexity for performance testing and validating the radio frequency environment. The purpose of Massive MIMO is to help deliver high data throughput to large number of users. To achieve this requires performance testing under realistic conditions, with large number of end user devices attached to the network. New technology, such as Massive MIMO, must not only be tested in silos, but also run against a set of core network test cases within a loaded network environment.

It is now vital that 5G manufacturers test their technology in a lab before bringing it to market to account for any environmental factors that may affect the performance in a live network. If they can prove that the technology has undergone scrutinous validation at scale with a high number of both 4G and 5G carriers, under real-word conditions without QoE degradation, they will be considered favourably by operators, or the NEMs, in their network plans.

With telcos now moving from testing to field trials, technology vendors of all sizes must quickly look to offer future-proof high performance and differentiated propositions. Validating technology against live 5G applications is an important means of proving that it is primed for today’s networks. As a pioneer in test and measurement equipment and dedicated to the development and monetisation of network services, VIAVI is the ideal partner for technology vendors as they look to enter the 5G network market. VIAVI can help these businesses address challenges now – and do so simply, quickly, and cost-effectively – allowing them to demonstrate that they can make a difference in operator networks as they race towards commercialisation. VIAVI has experience in working with operators and with all the major NEMS around the world, it is best placed to validate an operator’s network from end-to-end ensuring the best performance irrespective of the RAN supplier, and core network components vendors. VIAVI can also ensure that legacy 4G services and KPIs are not compromised, especially with new low complexity devices and enhancements such as the wave of Rel-14+ Cat-M and NB-IOT. This becomes vital as 4/4.5 to 5G interactions grow and network complexity increases.

Learn more about VIAVI End-to-end wireless network test.

MEDIAKIND: LA HISTORIA DETRÁS DE NUESTRA NUEVA MARCA GLOBAL DE TECNOLOGÍA MULTIMEDIA

Estoy complacido en anunciar el lanzamiento de nuestra nueva marca. Somo ahora MediaKind – el nuevo líder global en medios – y estamos ahora configurando un nuevo camino para la industria de los medios y la TV. Nuestra nueva identidad de marca llega en un momento en que la tecnología esta avanzando continuamente, siendo mas rapida, mas inteligente y mas eficiente – uniendo millones de personas alrededor del mundo y permitiéndonos a nosotros los usuarios, consumir mas multimedia con mayor facilidad, todos los dias.

Pero, que es un nombre? Desde nuestro punto de vista, los medios deberían transformar la forma que vemos el mundo y ofrecer oportunidades para experimentar historias y entender la vida en toda su vitalidad. Los medios deberían cautivar audiencias, cambiar percepciones y unirnos. El poder de los medios debería inspirar, influenciar y ser confiablemente inmersivos – y es todo esto lo que nosotros deseamos mostrar en nuestra nueva identidad.

Como parte del proceso de creación de marca hemos consultado cientos de empleados, evaluado cuidadosamente sus respuestas y los atributos que ellos ven en nuestro equipo. Una de las preguntas que hicimos fue: “Si nosotros fuéramos un automóvil, que tipo deberíamos ser?” La mayoría de participantes nos respondió que deberíamos ser un híbrido. Para mi, este modelo híbrido refleja la posición que los medios y la industria del entretenimiento han encontrado en este momento:

MediaKind: Una reflexión acerca de nuestros valores

Al unir los medios y la amabilidad, hemos construido nuestra propia y significativa identidad híbrida. El primer nombre – Media – es por lo que nosotros vivimos y respiramos. Es nuestro ADN. el segundo nombre muestra los que nosotros deseamos hacer para la especie humana. MediaKind es una identidad global, convincente que va mas allá de ser un nombre, logo o marca. Es una reflexión de nuestro conjunto de valores que apuntala todo acerca de lo que somos y lo que representamos.

Este nombre produce una sensación de libertad, mostrando nuestro espíritu aventurero, junto con nuestro compromiso para apoyar y destacar a nuestros clientes. MediaKind también describe el tipo de personas que somos y la unidad de nuestro equipo, la cual es asequible. amigable y construida sobre el espíritu de verdadera colaboración. Esto ha sido la base de sobre la cual hemos construido nuestra  altamente capaz fuerza de trabajo; ellos son expertos, experimentado y ampliamente reconocidos con múltiples premios para nuestras tecnologías innovadoras.

Somos MediaKind – para todos, en todas partes

Nuestra nueva identidad refleja la fantástica visión holística que tenemos para nuestra industria y para la sociedad. MediaKind tiene las tecnologías apropiadas, un equipo fuera de seira y un profundo conocimiento – una combinación que nos hace posible proveer el liderazgo que nuestros clientes necesitan durante este periodo de gran transformación hacia un nuevo mundo de entretenimiento multipantalla, inmersivo y por-demanda.

Continuamos imaginando lo inimaginable y estamos motivados por la oportunidad para empujar la experiencia del entretenimiento humando hacia adelante. Somo gente de medios. La innovación en la tecnología de medios corre en nuestro sistema y simplemente, somos la mejor clase de humanos en los medios que vera alrededor del mundo.