Time and frequency transfer

Time and frequency transfer is a scheme where multiple sites share a precise reference time or frequency. The technique is commonly used for creating and distributing standard time scales such as International Atomic Time (TAI). Time transfer solves problems such as astronomical observatories correlating observed flashes or other phenomena with each other, as well as cell phone towers coordinating handoffs as a phone moves from one cell to another.

Multiple techniques have been developed, often transferring reference clock synchronization from one point to another, often over long distances. Accuracy approaching one nanosecond worldwide is economically practical for many applications. Radio-based navigation systems are frequently used as time transfer systems.

In some cases, multiple measurements are made over a period of time, and exact time synchronization is determined retrospectively. In particular, time synchronization has been accomplished by using pairs of radio telescopes to listen to a pulsar, with the time transfer accomplished by comparing time offsets of the received pulsar signal.

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