NovAtel Focuses on Timing Markets with Telecom Partnership - Inside GNSS - Global Navigation Satellite Systems Engineering, Policy, and Design

NovAtel Focuses on Timing Markets with Telecom Partnership

A recently announced partnership between GNSS technology innovator NovAtel, Inc., and Brilliant Telecommunications underscores the profound changes taking place in the precise timing markets.

A recently announced partnership between GNSS technology innovator NovAtel, Inc., and Brilliant Telecommunications underscores the profound changes taking place in the precise timing markets.

The companies will undertake cooperative development activities, combining their respective technologies to create new product platforms that target advanced timing and synchronization applications. Following on the joint development with KVH Industries of integrated GNSS/inertial products announced earlier this year, the Brilliant alliance reflects NovAtel’s intention to continuing establishing high-level engineering collaborations “to drive growth,” according to NovAtel CEO Jon Ladd.

“We want to expand our reach into more verticals,” says Ladd, “and will exercise the partnership model to do this.”

NovAtel led the latest $11-million round of Series B financing for the Campbell, California–based Brilliant Telecom and now holds a 13 percent stake in the other company. Ladd has also joined the Brilliant board of directors, he told Inside GNSS in an interview.

Founded in 2004, Brilliant Telecommunications designs, develops and distributes a family of network timing, management and synchronization solutions, including carrier-class Network Time Protocol (NTP) and Precision Time Protocol (PTP) servers, primary reference sources (PRS), and building integrated timing supplies (BITS).

Its current product line includes the Zurich Z-1000 Stratum 1 NTP server that incorporates a 12-channel GPS receiver from another manufacturer, and the Cern C-2000 rack-mountable Primary Reference Source (PRS) and Primary Reference Clock (PRC) that accepts GPS inputs from a variety of manufacturers’ equipment.

With so-called third-generation (3G) telecom services, such as Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS), still rolling out and signing up customers, the industry is already looking ahead to a fourth generation that will rely even more heavily on the Internet and its associated standards (e.g., Internet Protocol or IP). These include such services as video streaming and movie downloads, voice over Internet (VoIP) telephony, and high-definition and mobile television.

International telecommunications regulatory and standardization bodies are working towards commercial deployment of 4G networks in the 2012-2015 time scale.

“The evolution from 3G to 4G is profoundly changing the timing requirement for telecommunicatons,” says Colin Maclellan, NovAtel vice-president and general manager. “NovAtel has historically sold into the timing market, but on an ad hoc basis. This [Brilliant partnership] reflects a strategy that brings focus at a time when a discontinuity is occurring in the technology” needed to meet those new requirements.

Rather than the timing/frequency functions being performed primarily at network nodes and, in the case of synchronized CDMA cellular networks, at macro-base stations, timing must increasingly be implemented at the currently unsynchronized edges of the network — represented, for example, in femtocells for small business and homes.

Brilliant is also targeting a range of markets outside the telecommunications industry, including data centers, utility suppliers, and legal and financial entities subject to regulatory requirements involving precise time. For example,m the New York Stock Exchange’s new Rule 132A requires members to synchronize the business clocks used to record the date and time of any event as mandated by the exchange. Other governmental regulations, such as the Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States, require both an accurate time stamp for all transactions and documents, as well as an audit trail (legal traceability) of such transactions.

Under the terms of the NovAtel-Brilliant agreement, both companies will collaborate to build products for OEM’s in the telecom, industrial and scientific instrumentation market. Brilliant will have access to the complete line of products offered by NovAtel including their high-performance antennas. Additionally, NovAtel will have access to Brilliant’s complete line of end-to-end, NTP and PTP/IEEE 1588 products to broaden and expand the overall solutions offered by NovAtel.

The companies, which began discussions last year, “had some mutual friends in the [Silicon] Valley who steered them to us,” says Ladd. NovAtel’s expertise with multiple GNSS systems was a major attraction for the telecom-oriented company.

“NovAtel is an ideal partner for us, as it offers leading . . . technology across the U.S. GPS, Russian GLONASS, and European Galileo satellite systems, and is well positioned for the Chinese Compass system in the future,” says Dr. Charles Barry, president and CEO, Brilliant Telecommunications.

As part of this joint technology agreement, NovAtel and Brilliant will combine development resources for joint product development initiatives. Products developed under this agreement will be marketed and sold by both companies in their respective markets. Ladd declined to reveal the companies’ timeline for new product development, citing competitive reasons.