Video: PTP Over Wan

Work is ongoing in the IPMX project to reduce SMPTE ST 2110’s reliance on PTP, but the reality is that PTP is currently necessary for digital audio systems as well as for most ST 2110 workflows. There are certainly challenges in deploying PTP from an architectural standpoint with some established best practices, but these are only useful when you have the PTP signal itself. For the times when you don’t have a local PTP clock, delivery over a WAN may be your only solution. With PTP’s standards not written with a WAN in mind, can this be done and what are the problems?



Meinberg’s Daniel Boldt describes the work he’s been involved with in testing PTP delivery over Wide Area Networks (WANs) which are known for having higher, more variable latency than Local Area Networks (LANs) which are usually better managed with low latency which users can interrogate to understand exactly how traffic is moving and configure it to behave as needed. One aspect that Daniel focuses on today is Packet Delay Variation (PDV) which is a term that describes the difference in time between the packets which arrive the soonest and those that arrive last. For accurate timing, we would prefer overall latency to be very low and for each packet to take the same amount of time to arrive. In real networks, this isn’t what happens as there are queuing delays in network equipment depending on how busy the device is both in general and on the specific port being used for the traffic. These delays vary from second to second as well as throughout the day. Asymmetry can develop between send and receive paths meaning packets in one direction take half the time to arrive than those in the other. Finally, path switching can create sudden step changes in path latency.

Boundary Clocks and Transparent Clocks can resolve some of this as they take in to account the delays through switches. Over the internet, however, these just don’t exist so your options are to either build your own WAN using dark fibre or to deal with these problems at the remote site. If you are able to have a clock at the remote site, you could use the local GNSS-locked clock with the WAN as a backup feed to help when GNSS reception isn’t available. But when that’s not possible due to cost, space or inability to rack an antenna, something more clever is needed.

Lucky Packet Filter
Source: Meinberg

The ‘lucky packet filter’ is a way of cleaning up the timing packets. Typically, PTP timing packets will arrive between 8 and 16 times a second, each one stamped with the time it was sent. When received, its propagation time can be easily calculated and put in a buffer. The filter can look at the statistics then throw away any packets which took a long time to arrive. Effectively this helps select for those packets which had the least interference through the network. Packets which got held a long time are not useful for calculating the typical propagation time of packets so it makes sense to discard them. In a three-day-long test, Meinberg used a higher transmit rate of 64 packets per second saw the filter reduced jitter from 100 microseconds to an offset variation of 5 microseconds. When this was fed into a high-quality clock filter, the final jitter was only 300ns which was well within the 500ns requirement of ST 2059-2 used for SMPTE ST 2110.

Daniel concludes the video by showing the results of a test with WDR where a PTP Slave gateway device was fed with 16 packets a second from a master PTP switch over the WAN. The lucky packet filter produced a timing signal within 500ns and after going through an asymmetry step detection process in the clock produced a signal with an accuracy of no more than 100ns.

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Daniel Boldt Daniel Boldt

Video: Precision Time Protocol (PTP) and Packet Timestamping in Linux

SMPTE’s ST-2110 standard can work on hardware or software, but its reliance on PTP, the Precision Time Protocol, makes full software support tricky. Why is this? Is this not just a question of more precise coding practices or changing programming language? There are times when PTP support for ST 2110 isn’t strictly needed and, indeed, the IPMX project is currently working on relaxing PTP requirements so that ST 2110 can be used in the ProAV market without ubiquitous PTP. But when you do need it on software deployed on a server, what are your options and what are the challenges?

This talk by Antoine Ténart looks at the pros and cons of using software vs hardware to create timestamps. First, however, Antoine looks at how PTP works. We’ve covered this before in a Cisco talk but Antoine points out that there are two methods that PTP can work, 1-step and 2-step. PTP synchronisation works by sending 2 messages from the grandmaster clock to the clock wanting to synchronise. There are also two messages sent back to the grandmaster. Keeping close track of when each of these messages was sent and received, and assuming the network delay is the same in both directions, you can work out how long it’s currently taking for timing messages to get to you. Once you’ve cracked the secret of how long messages get to you, you can accurately sync your clock to messages from the grandmaster which say ‘the time is currently …”



Without this exchange of messages, there’s no way to accurately synchronise your time with the PTP grandmaster within nanoseconds and you’d be left with NTP as your best option which can only keep accuracy within a few milliseconds. Some logs, transactions and media need much better accuracy than milliseconds. So with PTP relying on accurate timestamps, it’s important to find the best way to accurately stamp each message with its origin time.

Without hardware support, when the grandmaster sends its first message saying “This is the time”, a second message needs to be sent immediately afterwards saying “By the way, that last message actually left at a slightly different time:…” which is called the Follow-up Packet. Within broadcast, most equipment has hardware support and so can update the packet as it leaves the grandmaster with the actual time. When you can avoid the follow-up packet, this is known as a 1-step process.

As we covered in this the second talk from Cisco there is more than one type of clock: grandmaster, boundary and transparent. Antoine takes a moment to show how the boundary clock fits between end-devices and the grandmaster. For a deeper dive into PTP and its application to broadcast, watch Arista’s Gerard Philips in this IET Media talk.

Source: Antoine Ténart

Antoine tackles both software and hardware timestamping next. Software, he shows is done in the application or the kernel using the system clock. The errors/deltas involved can be big with a long time passing before transmission. Not being certain when timestamps will occur leads to jitter in the timing signal.

Hardware insertion can be done in the Ethernet layer, in PHY or by a dedicated controller like the Mellanox X5 cards. Errors and deltas are small since the timestamp is inserted close to the actual transmission. In fact, the only delta is it crossing the PHY layer.

The video ends with Antoine discussing offloading, specific calls in the kernel such as SO_TIMESTAMPING and SO_TIMESTAMPTING_TX_HARDWARE as well as introducing us to some tools such as ptp4l, which is a PTP client and ptp2sys which updates the system clock to the ptp time.

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Antoine Ténart Antoine Ténart
Senior Software Engineer, Red Hat
Former Linux Kernel Engineer, Bootlin

Video: Introduction to Precision Time Protocol (PTP)

As we’ve seen in so many videos, PTP is fundamental to large-scale SMPTE ST 2110 and pro-audio installations. On The Broadcast Knowledge we’ve looked at a large range of talks on PTP on architecture, scaling, and how it fits in to the broadcast industry. Few of these break down PTP into the fundamentals like today’s article about a video from Albert Mitchell from Cisco.

The key to a PTP network is having one grandmaster clock which can provide time for the rest of the network. In this article, the clocks running in the end devices are called ‘ordinary clocks’. Whilst there are ways to avoid using PTP with uncompressed video such as ST 2110, for live, studio-style productions where you will be bringing them together in a video mixer or similar, keeping these videos effectively zero latency is important and frame syncs on every input of the mixer are discouraged. A grandmaster clock can provide the timing the whole network needs to make this work, usually fed by GPS time.



SMPTE’s ST 2110 suite has built itself on the timing mechanism of PTP in form of IEEE-1588. SMPTE ST 2059 standards suite provides a method to accommodate all legacy reference and media signals using IEEE-1588 Precision Time Protocol (PTP), delivered over an IP network.

Albert moves on to how this all works. He keeps it simple explaining that there are two measurements needed to get the timing right. You need to know how long it takes to get a message from the grandmaster to the clock and how long it takes to get a message from the clock to the grandmaster. If the grandmaster sends a message with the time in it, it’s trivial for the ordinary clock to look at the time when the message arrived and work out the time it took. It can do the same; an ordinary clock can put the time into a message and send it to a grandmaster. The grandmaster will look at the current time and reply saying how long the transmission delay was. The ordinary clock averages these two measurements and can use the result and the time from the grandmaster to correct its own clock.

Albert finishes by explaining that if there are other switches between the grandmaster and the ordinary clock, those switches should be expected to identify the ‘residence time’ and add this extra delay of simply going through the switch to the time message. Changes in network delay due to congestion or path changes are the reason this timing calculation happens once a second.

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Albert Mitchell Albert Mitchell
Technical MArketing Engineer,

Video: PTP/ST 2059 Best Practices developed from PTP deployments and experiences

PTP is foundational for SMPTE ST 2110 systems. It provides the accurate timing needed to make the most out of almost zero-latency professional video systems. In the strictest sense, some ST 2110 workflows can work without PTP where they’re not combining signals, but for live production, this is almost never the case. This is why a lot of time and effort goes into getting PTP right from the outset because making it work perfectly from the outset gives you the bedrock on which to build your most valuable infrastructure upon.

In this video, Gerard Phillips from Arista, Leigh Whitcomb from Imagine Communications and Telestream’s Mike Waidson join forces to run down their top 15 best practices of building a PTP infrastructure you can rely on.

Gerard kicks off underlining the importance of PTP but with the reassuring message that if you ‘bake it in’ to your underlying network, with PTP-aware equipment that can support the scale you need, you’ll have the timing system you need. Thinking of scale is important as PTP is a bi-directional protocol. That is, it’s not like the black and burst and TLS that it replaces which are simply waterfall signals. Each endpoint needs to speak to a clock so understanding how many devices you’ll be having and where is important to consider. For a look a look at PTP itself, rather than best practices, have a look at this talk free registration required or this video with Meinberg.



Gerard’s best practices advice continues as he recommends using a routed network meaning having multiple layer 2 networks with layer 3 routing between This reduces the broadcast domain size which, in turn, increases stability and resilience. JT-NM TR-1001 can help to assist in deployments using this network architecture. Gerard next cautions about layer 2 IGMP snoopers and queriers which should exist on every VLAN. As the multicast traffic is flooded to the snooping querier in layer 2, it’s important to consider traffic flows.

When Gerard says PTP should be ‘baked in’, it’s partly boundary clocks he’s referring to. Use them ‘everywhere you can’ is the advice as they bring simplicity to your design and allow for easier debugging. Part of the simplicity they bring is in helping the scalability as they shed load from your GM, taking the brunt of the bi-directional traffic and can reduce load on the endpoints.

It’s long been known that audio devices, for instance, older versions of Dante before v4.2, use version one of PTP which isn’t compatible with SPMTE ST 2059’s requirement to use PTP v2. Gerard says that, if necessary, you should buy a version 1 to version 2 converter from your audio vendor to join the v1 island to your v2 infrastructure. This is linked to best practice point 6; All GMs must have the same time. Mike makes the point that all GMs should be locked to GPS and that if you have multiple sites, they should all have an active, GPS-locked GM even if they do send PTP to each other over a WAN as that is likely to deliver less accurate timing even if it is useful as a backup.

Even if you are using physically separate networks for your PTP and ST 2110 main and backup networks, it’s important to have a link between the two GMs for ST 2022-7 traffic so a link between the two networks just for PTP traffic should be established.

The next 3 points of advice are about the ongoing stability of the network. Firstly, ST 2059-2 specifies the use of TLV messages as part of a mechanism for media notes to generate drop-frame timecode. Whilst this may not be needed day 1, if you have it running and show your PTP system works well with it on, there shouldn’t be any surprises in a couple of years when you need to introduce an end-point that will use it. Similarly, the advice is to give your PTP domain a number which isn’t a SMPTE or AES default for the sole reason that if you ever have a device join your network which hasn’t been fully configured, if it’s still on defaults it will join your PTP domain and could disrupt it. If, part of the configuration of a new endpoint is changing the domain number, the chances of this are notably reduced. One example of a configuration item which could affect the network is ‘ptp role master’ which will stop a boundary clock from taking part in BCMA and prevents unauthorised end-points taking over.

Gerard lays out the ways in which to do ‘proper commissioning’ which is the way you can verify, at the beginning, that your PTP network is working well-meaning you have designed and built your system correctly. Unfortunately, PTP can appear to be working properly when in reality it is not for reasons of design, the way your devices are acting, configuration or simply due to bugs. To account for this, Gerard advocates separate checklists for GM switches and media nodes with a list of items to check…and this will be a long list. Commissioning should include monitoring the PTP traffic, and taking a packet capture, for a couple of days for analysis with test and measurement gear or simply Wireshark.

Leigh finishes up the video talking about verifying functionality during redundancy switches and on power-up. Commissioning is your chance to characterise the behaviour of the system in these transitory states and to observe how equipment attached is affected. His last point before summarising is to implement a PTP monitoring solution to capture the critical parameters and to detect changes in the system. SMPTE RP 2059-15 will define parameters to monitor, with the aim that monitoring across vendors will provide some sort of consistent metrics. Also, a new version of IEEE-1588, version 2.1, will add monitoring features that should aid in actively monitoring the timing in your ST 2110 system.

This Arista white paper contains further detail on many of these best practices.

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Gerard Phillips Gerard Phillips
Solutions Engineer,
Leigh Whitcomb Leigh Whitcomb
Principal Engineer.
Michael Waidson Mike Waidson
Application Engineer,