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National Timing Centre (NTC)

National Timing Centre (NTC) programme supporting information

To provide further awareness to stakeholders of NTC we are making available some information below which provides insight into the developing capability being established within the programme.

Developing framework within NTC programme

Part of the NTC programme is defining potential frameworks for future access to resilient and traceable time and frequency which allow for future scaling. Therefore, below are descriptions of the high level elements of a national timing infrastructure in development.

RETSI (Resilient Enhanced Time Scale Infrastructure):
A multi-site, resilient time scale being developed within the NTC programme as the future source of UTC(NPL).

Orchestration nodes:
One per RETSI site, distributing RETSI output signals. This category of node would not provide direct access, but rather may feed multiple service and innovation nodes.

Innovation nodes:
Spaces where time and frequency signals can be accessed for innovation and research purposes, sometimes combining collaborative space and other resources. The NTC is developing three new innovation nodes within the program in partnership with other organisations: University of Surrey, University of Strathclyde and Cranfield University.

Innovation nodes cannot feed service nodes or provide service level agreements, but they could be upgraded in future to service nodes.

In future, industry could host and manage innovation nodes to meet research and development needs.

Service nodes:
Locations providing signal access and traceability. These nodes could have different types of signals and levels of assurance and security. The focus for NPL is providing access to traceable signals which industry can use and develop further added value services from. NPL is working with government and industry to understand requirements and develop proposals which prioritise accessibility for service providers and users to UTC(NPL).

NPL manages two existing service nodes at the Daisy (Reading) and Telehouse (London) datacentres, both of which are being made available free of charge for the duration of projects by successful applicants of the related 2021 and 2022 Innovate UK grant funding competitions.

In future, industry could host and manage service nodes to meet market needs.

Developing framework within NTC programme

*Note: Figure is representative for purposes of describing a framework and definitions.

NPL are currently developing plans relating to the terms and extent of the core network and facilities for access. The ambition is to scale delivery over time with a range of services accessible to industry. The current and planned future signal access levels being developed are:

  • free services, comprising as a minimum the MSF radio signal and network time protocol (NTP) servers
  • low-cost signal access hand-off points for onward use and distribution by service providers where cost, scale and assurance level will be based on industry demand and requirements
  • high-end, integrated capability at a higher cost

Future business models will give the opportunity for industry to scale to meet market needs.

NPL welcomes ongoing information about industry requirements for using and accessing signals and facilities. Any new capability to be developed must be based on evidence of need. We would also welcome discussion with government, industry, and academia about the potential to establish innovation or service nodes managed by other organisations to provide downstream access to signals traceable to UTC (NPL).

Please contact NPL regarding the NTC

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