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.

Watch now!

Daniel Boldt Daniel Boldt

Video: As Time Goes by…Precision Time Protocol in the Emerging Broadcast Networks

How much timing do you need? PTP can get you timing in the nanoseconds, but is that needed, how can you transport it and how does it work? These questions and more are under the microscope in this video from RTS Thames Valley.

SMPTE Standards Vice President, Bruce Devlin introduces the two main speakers by reminding us why we need timing and how we dealt with it in the past. Looking back to the genesis of television, points out Bruce, everything was analogue and it was almost impossible to delay a signal at all. An 8cm, tightly wound coil of copper would give you only 450 nanoseconds of delay alternatively quartz crystals could be used to create delays. In the analogue world, these delays were used to time signals and since little could be delayed, only small adjustments were necessary. Bruce’s point is that we’ve swapped around now. Delays are everywhere because IP signals need to be buffered at every interface. It’s easy to find buffers that you didn’t know about and even small ones really add up. Whereas analogue TV got us from camera to TV within microseconds, it’s now a struggle to get below two seconds.

Hand in hand with this change is the change from metadata and control data being embedded in the video signal – and hence synchronised with the video signal – to all data being sent separately. This is where PTP, Precision Time Protocol, comes in. An IP-based timing mechanism which can keep time despite the buffers and allow signals to be synchronised.

Next to speak is Richard Hoptroff whose company works with broadcasters and financial services to provide accurate time derived from 4 satellite services (GPS, GLONASS etc) and the Swedish time authority RiSE. They have been working on the problem of delivering time to people who can’t put up antennas either because they are operating in an AWS datacentre or broadcasting from an underground car park. Delivering time by a wired network, Richard points out, is much more practical as it’s not susceptible to jamming and spoofing, unlike GPS.

Richard outlines SMPTE’s ST 2059-2 standard which says that a local system should maintain accuracy to within 1 microsecond. the JT-NM TR1001-1 specification calls for a maximum of 100ms between facilities, however Richard points out that, in practice, 1ms or even 10 microseconds is highly desired. And in tests, he shows that with layer 2, PTP unicast looping around western Europe was able to adhere to 1 microsecond, layer 3 within 10 microseconds. Over the internet, with a VPN Richard says he’s seen around 40 microseconds which would then feed into a boundary clock at the receiving site.

Summing up Richard points out that delivering PTP over a wired network can deliver great timing without needing timing hardware on an OPEX budget. On top of that, you can use it to add resilience to any existing GPS timing.

Gerard Philips from Arista speaks next to explain some of the basics about how PTP works. If you are interested in digging deeper, please check out this talk on PTP from Arista’s Robert Welch.

Already in use by many industries including finance, power and telcoms, PTP is base on IEEE-1588 allowing synchronisation down to 10s of nanoseconds. Just sending out a timestamp to the network would be a problem because jitter is inherent in networks; it’s part and parcel of how switches work. Dealing with the timing variations as smaller packets wait for larger packets to get out of the way is part of the job of PTP.

To do this, the main clock – called the grandmaster – sends out the time to everyone 8 times a second. This means that all the devices on the network, known as endpoints, will know what time it was when the message was sent. They still won’t know the actual time because they don’t know how long the message took to get to them. To determine this, each endpoint has to send a message back to the grandmaster. This is called a delay request. All that happens here is that the grandmaster replies with the time it received the message.

PTP Primary-Secondary Message Exchange.
Source: Meinberg [link]

This gives us 4 points in time. The first (t1) is when the grandmaster sent out the first message. The second (t2) is when the device received it. t3 is when the endpoint sent out its delay request and t4 is the time when the master clock received that request. The difference between t2 and t1 indicates how long the original message took to get there. Similarly t4-t3 gives that information in the other direction. These can be combined to derive the time. For more info either check out Arista’s talk on the topic or this talk from RAVENNA and Meinberg from which the figure above comes.

Gerard briefly gives an overview of Boundary Clock which act as secondary time sources taking pressure off the main grandmaster(s) so they don’t have to deal with thousands of delay requests, but they also solve a problem with jitter of signals being passed through switches as it’s usually the switch itself which is the boundary clock. Alternatively, Transparent Clock switches simply pass on the PTP messages but they update the timestamps to take account of how long the message took to travel through the switch. Gerard recommends only using one type in a single system.

Referring back to Bruce’s opening, Gerard highlights the need to monitor the PTP system. Black and burst timing didn’t need monitoring. As long as the main clock was happy, the DA’s downstream just did their job and on occasion needed replacing. PTP is a system with bidirectional communication and it changes depending on network conditions. Gerard makes a plea to build a monitoring system as part of your solution to provide visibility into how it’s working because as soon as there’s a problem with PTP, there could quickly be major problems. Network switches themselves can provide a lot of telemetry on this showing you delay values and allowing you to see grandmaster changes.

Gerard’s ‘Lessons Learnt’ list features locking down PTP so only a few ports are actually allowed to provide time information to the network, dealing carefully with audio protocols like Dante which need PTP version 1 domains, and making sure all switches are PTP-aware.

The video finishes with Q&A after a quick summary of SMPTE RP 2059-15 which is aiming to standardise telemetry reporting on PTP and associated information. Questions from the audience include asking how easy it is to do inter-continental PTP, whether the internet is prone to asymmetrical paths and how to deal with PTP in the cloud.

Watch now!

Bruce Devlin Bruce Devlin
Standards Vice President,
Gerard Phillips Gerard Phillips
Systems Engineer,
Richard Hoptroff Richard Hoptroff
Founder and CTO
Hoptroff London Ltd

Video: ST-2110 – Measuring and Testing the Data, Control and Timing Planes

An informal chat touching on the newest work around SMPTE ST-2110 standards and related specifications in today’s video. The industry’s leading projects are now tracking the best practices in IT as much as the latest technology in IP because simply getting video working over the network isn’t enough. Broadcasters demand solutions which are secure from the ground up, easy to deploy and have nuanced options for deployment.

Andy Rayner from Nevion talks to Prin Boon from Phabrix to understand the latest trends. Between then, Andy and Prin account for a lot of activity in standards work within standards and industry bodies such as SMPTE, VSF and JT-NM to name a but a few, so whom better to hear from regarding the latest thinking and ongoing work.

Andy starts by outlining the context of SMPTE’s ST-2110 suite of standards which covers not only the standards within 2110, but also the NMOS specifications from AMWA as well as the timing standards (SMPTE 2059 and IEEE 1588). Prin and Andy both agree that the initial benefit of moving to IT networking was benefiting from the massive network switches which now delivering much higher switching density than SDI ever could or would, now the work of 2110 projects is also tracking IT, rather than simply IP. By benefiting from the best practices of the IT industry as a whole, the broadcast industry is getting a much better product. Andy makes the point that broadcast-uses have very much pushed fabric manufacturers to implement PTP and other network technologies in a much more mature and scalable way than was imagined before.

Link to video

The focus of conversation now moves to the data, control and timing plane. The data plane contains the media essences and all of the ST 21110 standards. Control is about the AMWA/NMOS specs such as the IS-0X specs as well as the security-focused BCP-003 and JT-NM TR-1001. Timing is about PTP and associated guidelines.

Prin explains that in-service test and measurement is there to give a feeling for the health of a system; how close to the edge is the system? This is about early alerting of engineering specialists and then enable deep faultfinding with hand-held 2110 analysers. Phabrix, owned by Leader, are one of a number of companies who are creating monitoring and measurement tools. In doing this Willem Vermost observed that little of the vendor data was aligned so couldn’t be compared. This has directly led to work between many vendors and broadcasters to standardise the reported measurement data in terms of how it’s measured and how it is named and is being standardised under 2110-25. This will cover latency, video timing, margin and RTP offset.

More new work discussed by the duo includes the recommended practice, RP 2059-15 which is related to the the ST 2059 standards which apply PTP to media streams. As PTP, also known as IEEE 1588 has been updated to version 2.1 as part of the 2019 update, this RP creates a unified framework to expose PTP data in a structured manner and relies on RFC 8575 which, itself, relies on the YANG data modeling language.

We also hear about work to ensure that NMOS can fully deal with SMPTE 2022-7 flows in all the cases where a receiver is expecting a single or dual feed. IS-08 corner cases have been addressed and an all-encompassing model to develop against has been created as a reference.

Pleasingly, as this video was released in December, we are treated to a live performance of a festive song on piano and trombone. Whilst this doesn’t progress the 2110 narrative, it is welcomed as a great excuse to have a mine pie.

Watch now!

Andy Rayner Andy Rayner
Chief Technologist,
Prinyar Boon Prinyar Boon
Product Manager,

Video: Keeping Time with PTP

Different from his talk of the same name we covered last week, Mike Waidson from Telestream explains the fundamentals of PTP joined by Leigh Whitcomb from Imagine Communications and Robert Welch from Arista. Very few PTP talks include a live BCMA quiz plus, with more time than the IP Showcase talks, this is a well-paced, deep look into the basics.

Mike starts by reviewing how the measurement of time has been more and more accurately measured with us now, typically using atomic clocks. In the TV-domain analogue video used signals for B&B which gave frequency information in the subcarrier and allowed frequency locking and to keep in sync with other signals. NTP has allowed computers and routers on IP networks to keep lock allowing sub-millisecond synchronisation over LANs. Now we have IEEE 1588 PTP which harnesses hardware for maximum precision providing sub-microsecond precision.

Traditionally an SPG would create many different synchronising signals, distributed by DAs. With PTP however, the idea is creating a single time signal on to the network (as well as older signals if necessary). Although, the important thing to remember is that PTP both sends and receives data from the endpoints. GPS is made from 31 active satellites of which only 4 are needed for a lock. But other systems such as the Russian GLONASS, the Chinese BAIDU Navigational system or the European Galileo can also be used, sometimes in conjunction with each other to improve locking speed or give resilience.

Mike and his co-hosts give an overview of the standards that make all this possible, starting with the PTP standard itself IEEE 1588-2019 which is added to by SMPTE 2059. The latter is two standards that, together ensure broadcast devices can usefully harness PTP which is a general, cross-industry standard and track all signals back to a single point in time in 1970. Whilst this may seem extreme, the benefit of doing this is that if we know that all possible types of signal were in-phase at this one point in time, we can extrapolate how each signal should be phased now and use that information to synchronise the system. Upcoming to PTP, we hear, are standardised ways to monitor PTP plus additional security around the standard.

The next section looks at the types of Grandmaster and the fact that each clock works in its own domain. Typically, all your system will be in the same domain, but if you have incompatible situations such as older Dante networks or if you want to have a testing environment, you can use domains to separate your equipment. The standard, as defined by SMPTE 2059 is 127.

Mike then looks at the different types of PTP Message types: Announce, Sync & Follow up, Delay Request, Delay Response and Management Messages (broadcast information, drop second, time zone etc.) He then brings some of these up in Wireshark and talks us through the structure and what can be found within.

The most original part of the talk is the live walkthrough of three different scenarios where Leigh and Robert talk through their thinking on which clock will be the grandmaster and for what reason. This comes down to their understanding of the order of precedence of the metrics such as the manually-allotted priority, then the class of clock, clock accuracy and other values. One value worth remembering is that if your clock is locked to GPS it will have a class of 6, but if it then loses lock, it will become 7.

PTP talks are not complete without an explanation of the sync message exchanges needed to actually determine the time (and the relative delays in order to compute it) as well as the secondary clock types, boundary and transparent. Boundary clocks take on much of the two-way traffic in PTP protecting the grandmasters from having to speak directly to all the, potentially, thousands of devices. Transparent switches, simply update the time announcements with the delay for the message to move through the switch. Whilst this is useful in keeping the timing accurate, it provides no protection for the grandmasters.

Before the talk finishes with a Q&A, the team finish by explaining the difference between operating in unicast and multicast, prioritising PTP traffic using the differentiated services protocol and adding redundancy to the PTP system.

Watch now!
Free registration required

Robert Welch Robert Welch
Technical Solultions Lead,
Leigh Whitcomb Leigh Whitcomb
Principal Engineer.
Michael Waidson Mike Waidson
Application Engineer,