WDD readers identify popular trends and design obstacles when working with oscillators and timing devices.

The heartbeat of most electronic systems revolves around oscillators and timing devices. According to the IEEE¹, “timely oscillator options that can deliver the highest desired performance, while minimally compensating design steps are key to cost-effective design solutions.” However, data from a recent survey suggests how Wireless Design and Development (WDD) readers believe thermal stability, decreased aging, and low environmental dependence play the most significant roles in the future developments of oscillators and timing devices. The survey also presents readers’ thoughts on important specifications, challenges and obstacles, and popular trends. The results are included below.


The results were tight among WDD readers, when asked what specifications were important to consider when implementing oscillators and timing devices into their designs. Total frequency stability was the most popular (75%). Others reported the following from the multiple answers available:

  • Frequency tolerance – 65%.
  • Oscillation frequency – 57%.
  • Operating temperature – 40%.
  • Supply voltage – 39%.
  • Resistance – 16%.

It makes sense that total frequency stability would be identified as the most important specification to consider as frequency stability is used to keep track of time, to provide a stable clock signal, and to stabilize frequencies for radio transmitters and receivers. 

A small percent of WDD readers (6%) pointed to other specifications, including:

  • Size.
  • Packaging.
  • Current consumption, enable/disable pin.
  • Accuracy.


Designers who are integrating oscillators and timing devices into products face various challenges, however, design and/or packaging (44%) was suggested to be the biggest challenge. Other readers cited the following:

  • Large phase noise – 39%.
  • Strong jitter – 36%.
  • Strong spurious outputs – 33%.
  • Frequency jumps – 20%.
  • High-power consumption – 17 %.

Seven percent of WDD readers identified start-up stability and timing, cost, and extremely long lead times as significant challenges, however, signal purity is dependent on the amount of phase noise, and measuring jitter can be quite cumbersome, making the results compatible with the industry data.

Design Obstacles

According to readers, stability and aging (48%) presented the biggest design obstacle. Cost (30%) was identified as the second biggest, and energy efficiency and sustainability (12%) came in third. The least concerning obstacles included time-to-market (6%), operation in severe environmental conditions (3%), and RoHS requirements (1%).

Popular Trends

When asked about the most popular trends occurring in the oscillator and timing devices market. Compact size, stability, and lower costs were the most prominent responses. Other readers suggested timing devices for serial communications, multiple frequency outputs in single packages, and programmable oscillators. A few even mention lower power consumption.

Readers were also asked: "What need do you see fo oscillator phase noise in the range of 350 Fs?" Here is a sampling of some of their responses:

  • “When noise needs to be reduced.”
  • “There is a need for this frequency range in wireless/medical applications.”
  • “Stability.”
  • “I see a need for this frequency range in high-end/high-speed data acquisition.”
  • “New radio communications.”

Future Developments

Opinions were mixed among the WDD readers when they were asked about future developments in oscillators and timing devices. A large number agreed that thermal stability (46%) would play a significant role, expressing that a lot is spent on stability from a consumer side, and temperature seems to be at the center of all the design challenges of oscillators and timing devices. Others suggested the following:

  • Decreased aging – 21%.
  • Low environmental dependence – 16%.
  • Low thermal transient sensitivity – 6%.

Around 10% of readers identified tolerance to high pressure environments, noise, resistance to mechanical shock damage, size reductions, MEMS, and price as the most significant roles in the future developments of oscillators and timing devices.

After viewing the results from the survey as a whole, it is easy to conclude that the ability to operate in harsh environments under extreme temperatures, compact designs and packaging, and timing stability are some of the important issues that designers consider when it comes to oscillators and timing devices.


This article appeared in the September/October print issue.