Time Stamping Service Down to Picosecond Level Launched

Terry Flanagan

With high-frequency trading ratcheting up the number of orders and messages flowing through financial networks, firms need to certify the time in which it recognizes a market signal, down to the sub-second level.

To meet that need, Perseus Telecom has launched Certified Time, a timestamp service that’s calibrated by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Laboratory and available at the Savvis, Equinix and Telx datacenters.

For U.S. equities trading, the Finra OATS 7430 compliance rule states “all computer system clocks and mechanical time stamping devices must be synchronized to any source within one second of the NIST standard”.

The new Consolidated Audit Trail (CAT) rule mandates that self-regulatory organizations and Finra members must sync the date and time of any reportable event. Reporting each event to the central repository requires NIST timestamps to be within one millisecond or finer increments.

“The Consolidated Audit Trail requires brokers to certify time within one millisecond of every transaction,” said Dan Watkins, director of products and marketing at Perseus Telecom. “Through CAT, the Securities and Exchange Commission will be able to determine at what point during a transaction a broker decided it had received the best price as part of its best execution requirement.”

By law, only the NIST laboratory can issue time record-keeping for commercial synchronization and application evidence purposes, such as regulatory compliance and audits.

The Certified Time service from Perseus “meets all trade time sync requirements and can certify within picosecond accuracy of the NIST standard”, said Watkins.

Due to the ever increasing speeds of high-frequency trading, financial firms are constantly challenged with synchronizing activities across the enterprise. Firms have staggered systems that are not cohesive, used in multiple nations and still need to be in sync with the official government timescale. In finance, a brokerage firm must be able to certify the time in which it recognizes a market signal as well as certify the order execution of every transaction with an official source of government time.

Perseus has licensed the technology from Certichron, a provider of network synchronization and time data products. Certichron utilizes the atomic clock operated and maintained by NIST, the official U.S. time source, enabling it to bypass less reliable global positioning system (GPS) signals and receivers.

GPS operates by measuring the propagation time of signals transmitted from satellites to the user’s receiver. A constellation of 24 satellites provides a minimum of four satellites in view 24 hours a day at every point on the globe. Four satellites must be received simultaneously to determine both the receiver position (x, y, and z) and the receiver clock’s offset from the GPS system time.

“We operate as an FCC licensed carrier, so we can certify time down to the picosecond level from Certichron servers to our client’s environments via a 10 Gig fiber channel connection,” said Watkins.

Dr. Jock Percy, CEO of Perseus Telecom, added: “Advancement in exchange technology is vitally important. In order to remain competitive and compliant under new strenuous regulations, trading firms who demand the fastest execution possible are now required to have the fastest validation of time compliance possible. Our mission is to anticipate customer demand in the ultra-low latency networking industry. With increasingly faster trading and regulators bearing down to the microsecond, Perseus makes available the required precision in timing and connectivity.”

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