• David Mitlyng

Weekly Takeaways-January 3, 2022

Out with the Old... Towering above San Francisco is iconic Sutro Tower, a three-legged monument to obsolescence. Originally built in the 1970s to broadcast TV and radio signals throughout the hilly bay area, it has now been supplanted by cell towers, cables and fiber that provide streaming services. But it still operates. And even though few people use them, the TV signal is free. GPS, like Sutro Tower, was also built in the 1970s and provides a free* signal. And it is also obsolete. For the general user with a location app it works fine - most of the time. But, surprisingly, the majority of GPS' value is as a timing signal for communication and data networks. And it is not nearly secure, resilient or accurate enough for this application. It's time for something new. Last Week's Theme: A Present from China


Industry News

  • "Yet another government report detailing bad things that will happen because of our foolish over reliance on GPS for timing." According to a new report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), “The impact of a long lasting, widespread GPS outage on mobile phone networks would likely be staggering.”

  • According to this report, a "long lasting" GPS outage is only 24 hours. Which is not hard to achieve if you have the right equipment, such as this GPS jammer available on Amazon for only $14.98!

  • In the future, we may no longer get our position from GPS - we may get them from 5G signals. At least Qualcomm thinks so.

  • China has developed what it calls a Satellite Quantum System in a bid to combat any adversary intrusion into its power infrastructure. Chinese researchers published a paper where they described a drill using Mozi to protect its electric power grid against attacks.

  • Remember when the Russia Channel One TV host Dmitry Kiselyov said, “if NATO crosses our red line, it risks losing all 32 of its GPS satellites at once?” Recently he upped the threat against the US and NATO, adding: “Otherwise, everyone will be turned into radioactive ash”.

The More You Know...

*So is the GPS signal really free? For the sake of argument let's ignore the cost to the taxpayer, which is roughly $1.8B a year. To the consumer using the location app, it is free - though only because your location data is monetized. But for the enterprise user that needs timing from GPS, the hardware and system costs are very expensive. Nearly half a million GPS-tied timing boxes are sold a year, ranging in price from a few to tens of thousands of dollars a box. A basic design meets older 4G timing standards with no holdover (backup in case of a GPS outage). More expensive designs meet newer 5G timing standards and/or provides up to 48 hour holdover. On top of this, telcos and data centers spend lots of time and capital to ensure the timing stability and performance of their networks. But they are running up against the natural (and two decade old) limits that the "free" GPS system can provide. To learn more, please email us or schedule a meeting here.