Master Clock Systems

Precision Time & Frequency Systems

In time-related applications you must determine which clock will be used as the reference for all other clocks and understand how to transfer the time from the reference clock to all other clocks. The solution is a special timing reference clock, or master clock. The method by which the accuracy of the master clock is transferred to another, slave, or secondary clock, is known as synchronization. Spectracom offers a variety of master clocks, synchronization clocks, and master clock systems to meet a broad set of requirements. Typically, GPS satellite signals are utilized for synchronization to ensure accurate time, but other references such as local atomic clocks can be used.

What is a Master Clock?

Clock Icon

Master Clocks normally take one or more precise timing reference signals as inputs, then convert and distribute those timing references to other devices so their clocks are almost as accurate as the master clock.

Master clock systems are used in a wide variety of applications and industries including aerospace and defense, broadcast, radio, and telecom, network systems, financial services, emergency operations and call centers, and healthcare -- essentially anywhere reliability of data and signals are paramount.

Network master clocks distribute their timing references over local or wide area networks. There are also highly accurate master clock solutions that utilize copper or fiber connections for signal distribution of precise analog and digital signals such as IRIG, HaveQuick , and STANAG timecodes.

Master clocks can also differ in the source of their timing reference. It is a rare case for a master clock to be free-running and not synchronized, or at least compared with, an external reference continuously or regularly. So a core feature of all master clock systems is that they are accept precise timing references signals as inputs. Spectracom's SecureSync modular time and frequency synchronization system can accept over 14 different signal types to discipline its local clock that can generate a similar number of signal types to synchronize other devices. In case of loss of the external reference (or more than one for redundancy), the local clock maintains timing accuracy until the reference(s) can be restored. Several different local clock oscillator options are offered depending on the accuracy required during the "hold over" period.

Common Uses of Master Clocks

Spectracom master clocks deliver precise signalling and Legally Traceable Time to all time-keeping functions in any network.

  • Spectracom master clocks are in use to record 9-1-1 events to improve response times and to settle legal disputes.
  • Digital broadcast systems rely on master clocks to ensure reliability of wireless transmissions by aligning frequency and time.
  • The precision of military C4ISR platforms (radar, satcom, simulation, electronic warfare) require on accurate timing.
  • Telemetry and flight test systems can only correlate sensor and other data if time is precisely synchronized over the entire system.
  • Commercial enterprises leverage NTP Servers for records accuracy, troubleshooting, security, and to enable time-sensitive applications to the extremely high levels of accuracy.

Rackmount Instruments, Display Clocks, Plug-in Cards, OEM Boards & Modules, and Mobile Master Clocks

Spectracom offers synchronized rackmount appliances, redundant master clock systems, plug-in computer/server slot cards, OEM boards and rugged modules that can be used as master clocks. For high dynamic vehicle applications, Spectracom was the first to combine GPS with a precision oscillator and inertial measurement unit to reduce size, weight, and power for accurate time plus position and navigation data in a single unit.