Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN)

Real-time communication for Industry 4.0

Real-time communication from the sensor to the cloud

Reliable standard in the age of Industry 4.0

Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) mechanisms enable the control and prioritization of data streams in Ethernet networks. Individual requirements such as guaranteed bandwidth, time synchronization, or low latency for individual applications are taken into consideration so as to ensure the real-time capability of the system. This ensures that an application cannot interfere with the communication of other applications, and vice versa, despite the increased data traffic in the network.

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What is Time-Sensitive Networking?

Time-Sensitive Networking is a set of standards designed to improve the real-time properties of current Ethernet networks. This therefore comprises several individual standards that are currently being defined in the TSN Task Group of the IEEE 802.1 standardization organization.

However, Ethernet TSN is not a stand-alone communication protocol; it defines functions that can in turn be used by different protocols such as OPC UA or PROFINET.

Advantages and features of the new TSN standard

Convergent network  

TSN enables a convergence of IT and OT

The data transmission of real-time-critical applications (e.g., quick controls, signal acquisition in power grids, or motion control) and data-intensive applications (e.g., video streams or IT systems) is currently implemented in separate networks in order to prevent mutual interference. However, the growing flexibilization and digitalization of work processes requires the increasing convergence of IT and OT, and therefore the consolidation of previously separate systems.

By extending and adapting existing Ethernet standards, TSN creates a convergence between information technology (IT) and the industrial operational technology (OT) in industrial networks. This means that both real time-critical data and data-intensive applications (e.g., video streams) can be implemented via a shared Ethernet cable, without interfering with each other.

Method of operation of TSN technology

TSN is based on three core mechanisms that are defined in different standards.

Three core mechanisms of network convergence


Time-Sensitive Networking enables the simultaneous transmission of several automation and IT protocols in one convergent network.

The most commonly discussed protocols here are PROFINET and OPC UA; however, other systems such as CC-Link IE are also specified for use with TSN. To ensure that these protocols do not cause mutual interference in a network, they need to agree on a common profile of how TSN mechanisms are used in the network. This profile is currently being defined in a joint working group for IEC and IEEE under the umbrella of IEC/IEEE 60802-IA.

Infographic: joint TSN profile in accordance with IEC/IEEE 60802 – IA

Joint TSN profile in accordance with IEC/IEEE 60802 – IA

The use of TSN standards (“Streams & Configuration”, “Time & Cycle Synchronization”, and “Frame Preemption”) is already specified in version 2.4 or later of the PROFINET standard. The corresponding IEEE standards have been used in such a way that the fundamental properties of PROFINET have been retained. Devices are therefore already being developed with the PROFINET TSN profile and will soon be available on the market.

The Field Level Communication (FLC) Initiative of the OPC Foundation is currently working on the standardization of the OPC UA in combination with TSN. As soon as standardization is complete, corresponding devices will also be developed here that support the OPC UA PubSub in conjunction with TSN.

Our commitment to TSN

Phoenix Contact is involved in all of the relevant standardization organizations, such as the OPC Foundation and PI International, and is actively working on the implementation of the standards defined in IEC/IEEE 60802. In addition, we are already devising and developing our own devices and system solutions in order to offer a comprehensive TSN product portfolio for industrial automation. We will thus enable the consistent networking of IT and OT, as well as different sectors of the All Electric Society.


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