ITU-T Standards | Standards
December 18, 2018

New ITU standards to prevent soft errors caused by cosmic rays

By ITU News

New ITU standards provide guidelines to protect telecommunication equipment from ‘soft errors’ caused by particle radiation stemming from cosmic rays.

Particle radiation of neutrons generated by cosmic rays and alpha particles generated by minute quantities of radioisotopes found in semiconductor devices can create soft errors, a phenomenon where bits within the data on the device have their values reversed. This can affect the performance telecommunication equipment in such a way that adversely affects quality of service.

Although soft errors are temporary – rectified by restarting a semiconductor device or overwriting the affected data – the new ITU standards aim to prevent these errors and thus the time and expense required to correct them.

The new standards were developed by the ITU standardization expert group for ‘environment and circular economy’, ITU-T Study Group 5.

Learn more about the standards

The standards provide guidelines for the design and testing of telecommunication equipment to increase resilience to the effects of particle radiation, helping industry to incorporate this resilience in new telecommunication equipment from the outset of its production.

Overview: ITU K.124 “Overview of particle radiation effects on telecommunication systems”

  • Guidance on the impacts of soft errors caused by particle radiation.
  • Brief overview of design and test methods to mitigate these impacts.

Testing: ITU K.130 “Neutron irradiation test methods for telecommunication equipment”

  • Objectives, overview and operating principles of test methods using an accelerator-driven neutron source.
  • Requirements of the accelerator facility and test sites, including required test conditions and procedures.

Design: ITU K.131 “Design methodologies for telecommunication systems applying soft error measures”

  • Methods of estimating the soft-error failure rate depending on devices used and configuration of equipment, as well as methods to determine areas requiring soft-error protection measures.
  • Design methodologies for soft-error protection measures and notes on their application.

Supplement: ITU K.Suppl.11 “Soft error measures for field programmable gate arrays”

  • Soft error measure examples for field programmable gate arrays.

Requirements: ITU K.139 “Reliability requirements for telecommunication systems affected by particle radiation”

  • Reliability requirements concerning the frequency of maintenance replacements and main signal interruption, and the degree of certainty of non-occurrence of silent faults due to soft errors.

Quality estimation: ITU K.138 “Quality estimation methods and application guidelines for mitigation measures based on particle radiation tests”

  • Method of determining whether or not reliability requirements have been satisfied for telecommunication equipment regarding software defined in ITU K.139, based on the results of the neutron irradiation test described in K.130.
Learn more about ITU-T Study Group 5

ITU-T Study Group 5 leads ITU’s standardization activities on electromagnetic compatibility, lightning protection and electromagnetic effects; ICTs related to the environment, climate change, energy efficiency and clean energy; and circular economy, including e-waste.

  • Executive Summaries of the past meetings of ITU-T Study Group 5 can be found here…
  • All approved ITU standards under the responsibility of ITU-T Study Group 5 can be found here…
  • Recently approved ITU standards (2017-2020 study period) developed by ITU-T Study Group 5 can be found here…
  • Draft ITU standards under development within ITU-T Study Group 5 can be found here…

Learn more about ITU-T Study Group 5 in an ITU interview with the group’s Chair, Victoria Sukenik.

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New ITU standards to prevent soft errors caused by cosmic rays

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