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Security and resilience

Providing a resilient time infrastructure

A UK timing infrastructure underpinned by world class metrology

Accurate timing is central to high precision industrial development

Consistently available and accurate timing is a commodity we often take for granted, but its integration with technology impacts us all. There is worldwide dependency on timing accuracy, and it will impact how, for example, autonomous vehicles and automated machinery respond to events, make decisions and are safe.        

Our digital infrastructure is underpinned by timing. It is key for phase synchronisation of the power grid, synchronisation of telecoms and broadcast networks, traceable timestamping for regulatory compliance in the financial sector and timestamps for safety critical data. There is increasing demand in the UK and beyond for ever higher precision, traceable time and frequency to enable growth across many sectors, including future data networks, autonomous vehicle infrastructures, smart cities, factories of the future and distributed ledger platforms.    

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World-class expertise to support UK industry

Technical challenges 

  • We make resilient timing available across the UK, at the right accuracy and level of assurance, when and where it is needed, in an economically sustainable way
  • We create trusted services from new, secure, UK resilient infrastructure able to assure traceability, accuracy, availability, integrity and security of time and reduce dependence on Global Navigation Satellite Systems such as GPS
  • We develop new and novel timing infrastructure to be adaptable and upgradeable, with test and evaluation facilities to support innovative, diverse and complex requirements
  • We increase resilience of timing services by reducing reliance on a single site and service 

How measurement meets these challenges

  • We provide a resilient source of time for the National Timing Strategy and National Position, Navigation and Timing Strategy which need a systems approach, with both terrestrial or space-based solutions.
  • We ensure end-users have time and/or frequency references that are traceable to UTC(NPL) and provide improvements to the existing system in order to reach the aspirational performance target of +/- 1 ns of UTC
  • We replace the steering primary standard with new state-of-the-art optical clock system to provide world-leading accuracy performance and be fit for the future service needs
  • We develop guidance, standards and test protocols, along with the new measurement capabilities, to build confidence and accelerate development of new distribution techniques and devices

National Timing Centre

The National Timing Centre (NTC) was set up in response to the many security, safety and high precision industrial development challenges. Led by NPL, the NTC will deliver trusted and assured time and frequency distribution across the UK supporting national resilience, stimulating industrial innovation and addressing the skills gap in time and synchronisation solutions.


The Government’s 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy

The Government has prioritised the security of UK telecoms networks by building a healthy, innovative and competitive supply chain. The Diversification Taskforce used the Government’s strategy as the basis for its work and focused on how to deliver the ambitions that the Government has set out. The report outlines findings and recommendations in four key areas:

  • telecoms standards
  • regulatory policy
  • accelerating the adoption of Open RAN
  • long-term research and innovation to build UK capability

The extract below is from the Telecoms Diversification Taskforce Findings and Report (item 79, April 2021), regarding Time Distribution

“The telecoms sector has done a lot of work with timing experts to understand reliance on timing over recent years, however, next generation telecoms technologies are likely to rely on very accurate, synchronised time signals and assured, primary sources are likely to be necessary. Much of this is currently being led by the National Physical Laboratory who are looking at this issue and working closely with both industry and Government, however continued support of their work would be useful. The Government should continue to invest in and develop domestic capability in this area.”

Case study

Delivering trusted time for UBS infrastructure via NPLTime® Certified


Working with NPL

Our researchers are at the forefront of new innovations that promise to deliver new solutions to Digital challenges. We play a vital role in providing the standards and assurance to provide confidence in new products and providing reliable data. Learn more about our research areas and working with our experts. 

If you have a research collaboration where our expertise can help, please can contact the team and discuss your challenge.

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Work with us

Our research and measurement solutions support innovation and product development. We work with companies to deliver business advantage and commercial success.
Contact our Customer Services team on +44 20 8943 7070