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Agilent Technologies’ New Test Tool for Precision Time Protocol Enables Wireless Backhaul Synchronization


Industry-First Measurements for IEEE 1588v2 Transparent/Boundary Clocks, which Speed Timing-over-Packet Rollout, Unveiled at ISPCS Plug-fest

BRESCIA, Italy, ISPCS, Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) today demonstrated its new N2X IEEE 1588v2 Precision Time Protocol (PTP) test solution that enables network equipment manufacturers (NEMs) and network operators to ensure that time-critical Carrier and Industrial Ethernet applications are synchronized. Agilent will present a white paper about this technology at the event’s conference.

Operators are migrating to Ethernet because it is far less expensive than traditional transport technologies. N2X verified the interoperability of various vendors’ Ethernet devices under extreme loads during the ISPCS Plug-fest using a novel test methodology.

Ethernet has no clock-transfer mechanism, which, for example, wireless networks need to successfully hand over calls when subscribers roam. PTP was standardized to provide this mechanism. However, the relation between a network’s “Master Clock,” which synchronizes the “Slave Clocks” within the base stations, is mediated by switches and routers that introduce delays in transport. NEMs have addressed this issue by developing switches and routers with new functionality - “Transparent Clocks” - that modify PTP messages to correct for forwarding delays and ensure clock synchronization. Since accurate timing transfer is essential for wireless backhaul, carriers can now take advantage of cost-effective Ethernet technology using Transparent Clocks.

Agilent test results show that Transparent Clocks do not always correct accurately. Agilent’s new test solution measures the Correction Factor Error, which enables NEMs to develop more accurate clocking devices and network operators to evaluate the effectiveness of those devices. This is a significant advantage because the errors can be in the order of microseconds. In addition, N2X can surround a system with many virtual Masters and thousands of virtual Slaves. This “Slave-Clock Scalability” enables users to emulate extreme and realistic network conditions. Leading NEMs and early-adopter network operators are already using a prototype of Agilent’s tool to test their devices.

“Before wireless carriers move from traditional backhaul technologies to lower-cost Ethernet, they must ensure that calls won’t be dropped, which requires accurate synchronization of base stations,” said Toni Piwonka-Corle, general manager of Agilent’s Data Networks Operation. “It is vital that the Transparent Clocks implemented in switches and routers throughout the network accurately correct for forwarding delays. Agilent’s new test solution, which accurately measures the Correction Factor Error, signals the maturity of the standards and will accelerate the deployment of 1588v2 devices.”

Agilent’s solution also tests the performance of Boundary Clocks, which mediate the relation between a single Master and multiple Slaves in large networks. A Boundary Clock acts as a Slave to one Master and as Master to many Slaves.

The N5568A IEEE1588v2 Precision Timing Protocol Emulation software is available now. It complements the N5566A Synchronous Ethernet ESMC Emulation and G.8261 QuickTool to enhance Agilent’s comprehensive Timing-over-Packet test solution.

The International Symposium on Precision Clock Synchronization for Measurement, Control and Communication (ISPCS) is the world’s premier timing and synchronization event. Participants include Agilent Technologies, Alcatel-Lucent, BECKHOFF Automation, Brilliant Telecom, Calnex Solutions, Cortina Systems, Freescale Semiconductor, Hirschmann Automation and Control, Huawei, Imsys Technologies, IXXAT Automation, Meinberg Funkuhren, National Instruments, OnTime Networks, Oregano Systems, Rockwell Automation, RuggedCom, Semtech Corporation, Spectracom, Symmetricom, Tellabs, Time and Frequency Solutions, Wintegra, Zarlink Semiconductor, and Zurich University of Applied Sciences.

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About Agilent Technologies

Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) is the world’s premier measurement company and a technology leader in communications, electronics, life sciences and chemical analysis. The company’s 18,000 employees serve customers in more than 110 countries. Agilent had net revenues of $5.8 billion in fiscal 2008. Information about Agilent is available on the Web at


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