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CLOck NETwork Services: Strategy and innovation for clock services over optical-fibre networks

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - CLONETS (CLOck NETwork Services: Strategy and innovation for clock services over optical-fibre networks)

Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2019-09-30

CLONETS (Clock Network Services) aims to prepare the way for the creation of a sustainable, pan-European optical fibre-based network providing high-performance time and frequency (TF) services to research infrastructures, as well as support to a wide range of industrial and societal applications. CLONETS is motivated by recent progress in time and frequency metrology, and by the increasing number of applications which either need more accurate and stable TF reference signals than are currently available through satellite techniques, or cannot rely on broadcast signals due to, for example, security concerns or reception issues. Optical fibre links have been shown to outperform satellite systems by orders of magnitude, for the distribution of time and frequency signals over distances up to continental scales. CLONETS aims to develop the technical concepts of a network which will bring these benefits to scientific users, and support further distribution services for industry and society. It also aims to build up the European collaboration needed to achieve this goal.

The action surveyed the needs for such TF services in research and other areas, thoroughly analysed the scientific and technical basis for such a service, and proposed and explored some scenarios for implementing it. The project also carried out training actions in order to strengthen the community able to develop and exploit such systems.
"CLONETS has gathered information from the time and frequency (TF) metrology community, National Research and Education Networks (NRENs), and research infrastructures on state-of-the-art fibre-optic TF transfer techniques, current fibre-optic networking technologies, and the needs for high performance TF references via an optical fibre network. The consortium has identified and surveyed research infrastructures, and has found a growing awareness of the potential of a fibre-based TF service. In parallel, the fibre optic networks of NRENs and their capacity for integrating a TF service were studied. A special focus was made on the suitability of ""Alien Wavelength"" or ""Dark Channel"" methods, which allow integrating TF (or other) signals into the same fibre as data traffic. The Consortium evaluated and summarised the likely key TF transfer techniques of the future, the potential role of optical fibre compared to satellite based services, the requirements for the implementation and integration of fibre based services into NREN networks and the key obstacles to this.

The CLONETS Consortium has also conducted surveys in order to gain additional insight into the TF needs of users in the public, research, governmental and industrial sectors. In preparation of this survey, the Consortium identified different TF service categories using quantitative and qualitative parameters, and defined an ethics policy for these surveys. Further, an independent market study on societal and industrial applications and potential markets was conducted through a subcontract to a specialised company. This study provides insights to the importance of high performance TF references in a number of high-priority fields, including telecommunications, energy networks, the financial sector, the Industrial Internet of Things, Big Data and scientific facilities.

The Consortium has developed an overall vision for TF service delivery over optical fibre in Europe, and proposed the architecture for a core network together with possible future extensions. Different scenarios for the implementation of the core network were examined, and estimations of the respective deployment costs made. In order to enable an efficient realisation of an operational and sustainable TF network in Europe, the maturity level and commercial availability of relevant existing TF technologies were assessed, missing technology blocks in terms of expertise and equipment identified ,and technology development roadmaps developed. A deployment strategy for the core network was laid out, with a particular focus on the implementation and operation of the core network in cooperation with NRENs. Finally, the consortium studied possible legal structures for operating the network.

In close collaboration between CLONETS participants and Politecnico di Torino, a Level-2 Master programme specialising in Photonics for Networks and Metrology was developed. This is expected to provide relevant advanced training to students in the future."
CLONETS has brought together key players in the field of TF transfer over optical fibre networks, strengthening the interactions and collaborations between researchers and engineers of research and education network providers, metrology institutes, academic laboratories and high-technology industry throughout Europe. The project has allowed the participants to foster exchanges and interactions across Europe, survey the diverse landscape of TF technologies and approaches present in Europe and establish new collaborations. Through these activities, the project has worked towards the coordination and harmonisation of the different developments and interests across Europe.

The communication, dissemination, training and exploitation activities have benefited the TF community by giving it more visibility, reinforcing and creating links of the project partners with potential user communities in both academia and industry, and network engineers and technicians. CLONETS has interacted with policy makers, shareholders and users and offered training to engineers and researchers in the domain of TF transfer over optical fibre, establishing support for future exploitation phases of the project, facilitating effective knowledge transfer and establishing lasting and fruitful partnerships across different sectors.

Potential users have provided CLONETS with detailed information on their TF requirements and expressed their interest in learning more on the opportunities and benefits high performance TF reference signals through optical fibre could bring. These discussions help guarantee that the envisioned European TF service will have a maximal impact on the potential user communities. The interactions with European NRENs and GEANT have led to increased interest in TF as a service over their optical fibre networks. The project has produced comprehensive TF technology reviews and roadmaps, which have consequently enabled the project’s partners to provide recommendations regarding the implementation of a TF service in an extended optical fibre network. They serve as a reference for anyone interested in the provision and development of high performance TF services over optical fibre and can have an impact on the choice of technologies in the design of optical fibre networks.

A high-performance TF service over optical fibre has applications in a variety of fields including amongst others metrology, fundamental physics, geodesy, astronomy, high-resolution spectroscopy and telecommunications, which would benefit from the unprecedented stability and accuracy such a service could offer. The direct economic and societal impact will follow through the deployment, operation and exploitation of the TF optical fibre infrastructure and the consequent scientific advancements, innovation and technological developments that will be triggered. It can be expected that new commercial products will be developed and new market opportunities created.
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