Weekly Takeaways-January 11, 2022

The Train Station Analogy Imagine you are taking the train across town. You get to the train on time (at least according to your watch), but the clock at the train station is running five minutes late. So, the train leaves five minutes late. You get to your connecting station, but that clock is running five minutes fast. Your connecting train has already left. So, you have to wait for the next train. Such is the importance of synchronized clocks. Moving people is analogous to moving data across a network; better synchronization increases throughput, improves efficiency, and reduces latency. And while networks get more complicated (see below), the accuracy hasn't improved in decades.

The Train Station Analogy, Part II In the old days of analog broadcasts, synchronization was not necessary. This was analogous to all trains departing from one station: you arrive when you arrive. Accurate synchronization is critical as more stations are added and distances between stations decrease. And this is the trend within data and telecommunication networks.The one-way broadcast tower has been replaced by cell towers, which are splitting even further into microcells, picocells, and femtocells (think your wi-fi router). This trend is likely to continue, according to a recent report on 6G. Projected to be 100 times faster than 5G, 6G requires a new network topology that "will be more layered and more meshed, encompassing not only ground-based radio units but also unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), low earth orbit (LEO) and geostationary orbit (GEO) satellites, and high-altitude platform stations (HAPS)." All of which will need better timing accuracy.