The Future of the UTC Time Scale

Ronald L. Beard

Peer Reviewed

Abstract: The international atomic time scale used by broadcast services throughout the world is Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). UTC, defined by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU-R), is maintained by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in cooperation with the International Earth reference and Rotation Service (IERS). Measurements from timing centers around the world are used to determine UTC. The IERS monitors Earth rotation so UTC can be adjusted to within 0.9 seconds of Earth rotation time (UT1). The adjustments, known as leap-seconds, were implemented in 1972 to permit UT1 to be recovered from UTC for celestial navigation. The frequency of leap seconds is dependent on the dynamics of the decelerating Earth. Current telecommunications systems do not introduce leap seconds in timing their data streams. Consequently, deliberations are ongoing within the ITU-R on the issue of a continuous time scale without leap seconds. The questions and issues will be discussed.
Published in: NAVIGATION, Journal of the Institute of Navigation, Volume 56, Number 1
Pages: 1 - 8
Cite this article: Beard, Ronald L., "The Future of the UTC Time Scale", NAVIGATION, Journal of The Institute of Navigation, Vol. 56, No. 1, Spring 2009, pp. 1-8.
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