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Long range time transfer with optical fiber links and cross comparisons with satellite based methods

Abstract : Time and frequency references are widely distributed over communications and computer networks, for a variety of scientific and industrial applications. Driven by a demand for improved performance, a number of new methods for time and frequency transfer over optical fiber-based networks have been developed in recent years. In this thesis our objective is to develop a scalable network time and frequency transfer approach, providing multi-user dissemination, compatible with large telecommunication networks and competitive with GNSS-based time distribution. Therefore we are concerned with methods for use in packet-based networks, like the Network Time Protocol (NTP) and Precision Timing Protocol (PTP). We also concentrate on “unidirectional” links, where the forward and backward signals between network nodes propagate over separate fibers, not within the same fiber (“bidirectional” links).In particular we use a method called White Rabbit PTP (WR). This is a novel technology developed at CERN, based on PTP while using Synchronous Ethernet and other techniques to achieve high performance. It demonstrates sub-nanosecond time stability and synchronization of arrays of instruments over 10 km scale networks. We are particularly interested in extending this method for large scale distribution of references at regional or national level, over links of up to 1000 km.We first study extensively the default performances and limitations of White Rabbit network equipment, in particular the White Rabbit switch. We make various improvements to its operation: on the locking of the grandmaster switch to the external reference, thus improving its short-term stability by more than an order of magnitude; optimizing the locking bandwidth of the slave switch; and increasing the PTP messaging rate between master and slave switches.We then study medium and long-distance WR links. We construct a 100 km, unidirectional link using fiber spools in the laboratory. We discover that the short-term performance is limited by chromatic dispersion in the fiber, while the long-term performance is degraded by the influence of temperature variations on the fiber. To limit the effect of chromatic dispersion for long-haul links, we propose the use of a cascaded approach. We realise a national scale, cascaded, 500 km link, again utilizing fiber spools. We use Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing methods to construct this link by mutliple passages through shorter spools. We achieve a frequency transfer stability of 2 × 10−12 at one second of integration time and 5 × 10−15 at one day, limited by thermal noise in the long term. We achieve a time stability of 5 ps at one second of integration time, decreasing to a minimum of 1.2 ps at 20 seconds and remaining below one nanosecond for longer averaging times. These performances are similar in the short term, and two orders of magnitude better in the long term, than good quality GPS receivers. We expect thermal fluctuations and therefore the effect of fiber thermal noise to be suppressed by a factor of approximately five for installations in the field.Finally we make preliminary investigations of time calibration of WR links. The main challenge here is to measure the optical length asymmetry between the two fibers used for signal transfer in the forward and backward directions. We demonstrate a fiber swapping technique, using a mid range, suburban White Rabbit link over dark fiber. We then describe and test a new variational method for calibration, involving a differential measurement method based on operating two WR links at different wavelengths over the same optical fiber link.In conclusion, we demonstrate high performance, long haul White Rabbit links for time and frequency dissemination to multiple users. With the level of frequency transfer performance achieved, White Rabbit PTP provides a competitive and scalable technique for comparing industrial atomic clocks at regional and national scales.
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Namneet Kaur. Long range time transfer with optical fiber links and cross comparisons with satellite based methods. Astrophysics [astro-ph]. Université Paris sciences et lettres, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018PSLEO002⟩. ⟨tel-02089265⟩

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