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Practical Limitations of NTP Time Transfer

Published

Author(s)

Andrew N. Novick, Michael A. Lombardi

Abstract

The Network Time Protocol (NTP) is commonly utilized to synchronize computer clocks in packet-switched, wide area networks (WANs) such as the public Internet. The delay asymmetry in WANs, often due to inconsistent routing and/or bandwidth saturation, is usually the dominant source of error. It typically limits NTP time transfer uncertainty to about one millisecond. This paper discusses the uncertainty of NTP time transfer when network asymmetry is largely eliminated. We performed NTP measurements over a local area network (LAN) when both the server and client are referenced to a common clock. Three variations of a LAN are tested, including a direct connection between the server and client with an Ethernet crossover cable. The elimination of network asymmetry reveals other uncertainty sources that serve as practical limitations for NTP time transfer, including server instability, client instability, and asymmetry in network interface cards.
Proceedings Title
Proceedings of the 2015 Joint Conference of the IEEE International Frequency Control Symposium & European Frequency and Time Forum
Conference Dates
April 12-16, 2015
Conference Location
Denver, CO
Conference Title
2015 Joint Conference of the IEEE International Frequency Control Symposium & European Frequency and Time Forum

Keywords

local area network, network time protocol (NTP), time transfer
Created April 12, 2015, Updated November 10, 2018