Industry News

Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) to Retain the Leap Second

At the ITU World Radio Conference meeting in Geneva this week, it was decided that further study is required before leap seconds, affecting the official time scale, is discarded. In 2023 they will revisit the issue meaning the leap second will be around for at least 8 more years.

A leap second is added periodically to adjust to irregularities in the earth’s rotation in relation to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the current reference for measuring time, in order to remain close to solar time. Whenever a leap second is added (most recently on 30 June 2015 at 23:59:60 UTC) its value is debated as a discontinuity in time is problematic for many time-sensitive applications. The proposal to suppress the leap second would provide a continuous reference time-scale for all modern electronic navigation and computerized systems while eliminating the need managing a one second offset which typically is not known until less than 6 months in advance.

This week's decision calls for studies regarding current and potential future reference time-scales, including their impact and applications that will be presented at the 2023 conference. It also reinforces the links between the ITU and the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), and many other international organizations.

ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao said, “Modern society is increasingly dependent on accurate timekeeping...critical for all areas of human activity.”