A scientific and technological paradigm change is currently taking place, concerning the way that very high performance time and frequency reference signals are distributed. Ubiquitous access to high-performance time and frequency is almost exclusively provided today by radio signals, in particular those of global navigation satellite systems such as GPS and Galileo, which have well-known vulnerabilities. However researchers have already demonstrated that orders of magnitude performance improvements are provided by signals transported over optical-fibre networks, over distances up to continental scales (1000s km). Research infrastructures are developing several such technologies, adapted to specific projects and applications, and among them several European national metrology institutes are installing and operating experimental long-distance links, notably in view of mutually comparing their optical clocks, which are leading the way to a new definition of the unit of time and to greatly improved time scales.

The present project aims to prepare the transfer of this new generation of technology to industry and to strengthen the coordination between research infrastructures and the research and education telecommunications networks, in order to prepare the deployment of this technology to create a sustainable, pan-European network, providing high-performance “clock” services to European research infrastructures. Further, this core network will be designed to be compatible with a global European vision of time and frequency distribution over telecommunications networks, enabling it to provide support to a multitude of lower-performance time services, responding to the rapidly-growing needs created by developments such as cloud computing, Internet of Things and Industry 4.0.





The project has the following objectives:

1) to collect information from research infrastructures and national research and education networks (NRENs) as input for the formulation of roadmaps, including:

  • needs of research infrastructures
  • current and future key telecommunications technologies and operating practices used by NRENs
  • key technologies for time and frequency (TF) transfer over optical fibre
  • identifying appropriate combinations of the above

2) to study applications beyond research infrastructures:

  • to identify as accurately as possible and in a comprehensive way the other users and stakeholders of accurate time and frequency dissemination, providing precise information about their requirements, their geographical distribution, etc
  •  to estimate the future economic and societal impact of these markets through an independent study

3) to define roadmaps and strategies to support future work, including:

  • a global vision for TF service delivery over optical fibre
  • the definition of the core network serving research infrastructures
  • roadmaps for the industrial development of new products based on the technologies identified above
  • a deployment strategy for the pan-European core network

4) to create the environment necessary for future work through:

  • recommendations to policy makers
  • dissemination of information to shareholders and users
  • training of engineers and researchers through a programme of short training events and by supporting a pilot session of a specialized Masters-level teaching programme.

This will create a solid basis of understanding between researchers and engineers of Research Infrastructures, Technological platforms, and industry. The ambition is to create a community in the long term, to establish an effective knowledge transfer from the providers of time and frequency over fibre to users, policy makers and stakeholders. This ambitious objective leads us to propose a 30 month-long project rather than a shorter duration.

5) to study the evolution of the partnership created by this project necessary for a future exploitation phase of the created clock services network.