RNT Foundation Offers Attributes for Resilient Synchronization RFP

A resilient national synchronization architecture should include delivery over fiber and RF as well as over space, according to the RNT Foundation. (Image: RNT Foundation)

The Resilient Navigation and Timing (RNT) Foundation has published a white paper proposing attributes for a government request for proposal (RFP) to acquire timing services.

“A resilient national synchronization architecture – now for a tender! Is based on the October 2020 white paper of the foundation “A Resilient National Synchronization Architecture”.

Timing services, most of which now come directly or indirectly from GPS, are essential for myriad network, transportation, financial, industrial and other applications. The National Timing Resilience and Security Act of 2018 (NTRSA) requires the establishment of one or more systems to act as an alternative and to safeguard the GPS synchronization.

The RNT Foundation’s October 2020 white paper explains how a national synchronization architecture meeting the requirements of the NTRSA could be established relatively easily and inexpensively. He proposes that, rather than building its own system, the government contract for services with commercial suppliers.

The new white paper describes some of the requirements and evaluation criteria that the government could use when acquiring timing services.

Goals

The paper postulates that the goal of such a procurement should be to establish a federal “backbone” in terms of timing. This would meet the requirements of the NTRSA, which recognizes that timing is essential for many applications and also forms the basis of most electronic positioning and navigation systems.

Setting up this backbone will provide users with an alternative and a safety net for GPS disruptions and, at other times, allow more resilient and reliable services. As a backbone, it would provide fundamental basic services that others could build on. The new services should:

  • support a wide variety of public and private applications across the country
  • be fully independent and have minimal or no failure modes with GPS and other GNSS
  • provide multiple and diverse methods of synchronization delivery
  • serve both fixed and mobile users.

Regarding the latter point, the document notes that mobile devices must know their location before they can use sync signals. Thus, the selected system or combination of systems should also provide GPS independent location information at a basic level to mobile users.

Terms & Conditions

Successful proposals, according to the document, will have to meet a number of requirements, including

  • serving the entire land area, airspace and coastal waters of the United States up to approximately 200 miles offshore
  • allowing all fixed and mobile users to access at least one non-spatial source (to ensure the absence of common failure modes with GPS / GNSS)
  • timing accuracy in all locations within 500 nanoseconds of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC); this accuracy should be within 100 nanoseconds of UTC for the 50 largest metropolitan areas
  • one or more integrity measures to provide users with confidence in the accuracy of the system (s)
  • a very high rate of continuity and availability, similar to that of aircraft navigation beacons
  • a performance monitoring and control system.

Evaluation criteria

Fortunately for the government, there are many systems and businesses that are already able to provide the necessary services. Deciding which one to select will likely be a significant effort. Some of the evaluation criteria suggested by the RNT Foundation white paper are:

Annual cost – Although cost is not the only consideration in this acquisition, the government still has a responsibility to taxpayers to consider it an important factor.

Infrastructure required per unit of coverage area – This was cited by the Ministry of Transport as a very important consideration. Not only does the amount of infrastructure affect costs, it also has implications for environmental and community impacts.

Spectrum – Signal disturbance by in-band and out-of-band transmissions has been a significant problem for GPS. The new PNT wireless and radiofrequency services should pose as few spectrum problems as possible. Spectrum band reservations, licenses, pre-allocated bands, other bands and uses of adjacent bands will all be considered.

Penetration – Although the government does not mention this as a requirement, the ability of a service to reach underwater, underground and inland locations will likely be desirable and will be part of the evaluation of the proposal.

Resilience – The vulnerability of GPS signals to disturbances will undoubtedly make the resilience of potential back-up and complementary systems a major issue. The RNT Foundation document deals with two types of resilience – operational and recovery.

Operational resilience is defined as “the ability of a system, a combination of systems or a service to withstand disturbances (eg interference, impersonation, physical damage adversely affecting the service)”. A measure of resilience might be the energy required to disrupt signals.

Recovery resilience is described as “how quickly and easily a service can return to normal operation” after an interruption.

Cyber ​​security – Likewise, cybersecurity is considered to have two components. The first is internet security, defined as the degree to which systems are isolated or connected to networks. The second is signal security, and this is how well signals can be protected from infiltration and imitation.

Endorsements for alternative GPS timing

Since the publication of the National Resilient Timing Architecture white paper in 2020, calls for GPS alternatives have intensified and the white paper itself has received significant endorsement.

On May 7, the telecommunications industry standards group Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) vigorously supported federal funding for GPS alternatives. In letters to leaders of both chambers of Congress, ATIS cited “the urgent need to fund the deployment and adoption of alternative positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) systems in critical U.S. infrastructure, including the US telecommunications industry “.

The need for federal support for synchronization and positioning backups for GPS was also supported by a two-year-old study released by RAND Corporation in May. While the document went to great lengths to oppose duplicate GPS-like capability (something no one supported to our knowledge), it quietly suggested federal support for both a system national timing and tracking services to serve the E-911 systems. .

Numerous recent US Space Force press releases have revealed serious military threats to GPS and other space systems. A variety of killer satellites, lasers, and other weapons have turned the space of a sanctuary into a potential battlefield. While not specifically calling for alternatives to GPS, the Space Force announcements made it clear that the nation must “get rid of GPS.” Establishing at least one terrestrial alternative system similar to those operated by our adversaries will make US satellites and signals much less attractive targets, according to Greg Winfree, former deputy secretary in the US Department of Transportation.

Federal funding required

Federal funding to improve the national schedule has been specifically supported by a group of CEOs and senior executives from large telecommunications companies. Acting as the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC), the group’s May report to President Biden discussed GPS vulnerabilities and threats, and urged for capacity building

“… Similar to that reflected in the Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation document entitled A Resilient National Timing Architecture. In addition, to improve the ability of business entities to afford to take advantage of this architecture, the Authority should allocate sufficient funds to lay the groundwork for the creation of this synchronization architecture, with the federal government being the primary customer of this architecture. which will ultimately become a resilient and interconnected network for PNT Delivery.

Federal financial support is needed, according to NSTAC, as free GPS services drastically suppress market demand for alternatives.


Dana Goward is President of the Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation (RNT).


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