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May 10

Modernizing Airports Starts with Optimizing Connectivity

It’s hard to believe that just over a hundred years ago, the aviation industry didn’t even exist. Today, air travel is an essential part of global infrastructure, and airports have become hubs of our modern society. Airports situated in our major cities have been built to a scale that dwarfs most other installations, and traffic at the busiest airports exceeds tens or even hundreds of millions of passengers per year.

Airports function in many ways like small cities, and the infrastructure involved in a well-functioning airport is nothing less than fascinating. This is due, in part, to the complexity created when airport operators need to cater not only to enterprise customers (the airlines) but also to consumers.

Aircraft need fuel and other supplies at the gate, maintenance crews need to balance schedules with emergency repairs, and weather needs to be analyzed to coordinate flight schedules with other airports. On the consumer side, the airport needs to provide amenities, efficient and thorough security screenings and accurate luggage tracking.

Even government considerations can become involved as cargo shipments must be processed through customs, foreign diplomats require additional security and public safety services must respond to incidents. There are certainly a lot of utilities involved in the daily operations of an airport, but with the above considerations, there’s one that stands out as a particularly important investment in this modern age – connectivity.

Airports are, in many cases, the pinnacle of technology for their respective regions. From a connectivity standpoint, that means integrating IoT applications to ensure everything runs smoothly, while also meeting the connectivity demands of travelers passing through their terminals. How can an airport that accommodates over 250,000 passengers a day cope with such demands?

For many of us who have become accustomed to Wi-Fi at home, that may seem like the answer. Wi-Fi may be enough to keep our smart TVs streaming Netflix, but the truth is that when business critical IoT applications come into play and coverage is needed over a large area, Wi-Fi simply can’t keep up with the speed, capacity and reliability demands. Not to mention that to cover an area as large as an airport with Wi-Fi, a large number of access points is required, creating wireless noise and weakening the quality of the signal.

The answer is to turn to cellular connectivity. A distributed antenna system (DAS) has the capability to blanket an airport, including the terminals, security areas, remote hangers, etc. with the connectivity needed for the formidable task of coordinating an airport’s enterprise and consumer needs. Compared to Wi-Fi, DAS can guarantee a quality of service that meets an airport’s demands in terms of speed, capacity and reliability.

And with such a wide range of travelers and tenants operating in an airport, any such DAS will need to be flexible enough to accommodate any wireless situation. That doesn’t just include complete coverage of common cellular carrier frequencies for airport and airline employees or passengers waiting for their flight, but also includes public safety coverage for first responders who may need to respond to emergency situations.

Equally as important, airport operators should implement DAS solutions that can grow with their connectivity needs. With new technologies on the horizon that will enable enterprises to establish private LTE networks, airport operations can use a private cellular network to run IoT applications to improve efficiency of the airport while offering airlines the ability to roll out similar applications for customer service and maintenance.

Of course, interoperability will be a critical feature to consider for these applications. After all, a connectivity platform that uses private LTE, but doesn’t allow users to communicate with the outside world with commercial cellular frequencies will be inherently limited in its ability to communicate and improve collaboration with other airports, the rest of an airline’s fleet or with anyone outside of an airport environment.

At the end of the day, an airport’s job is to get passengers from point A to point B safely, quickly and efficiently. Excelling at this attracts more travelers, and more airlines and flights to accommodate them. With these improvements being driven primarily through connected applications, ensuring connectivity is the first step in making sure an airport, and even a city, doesn’t wind up on the travel guide’s “avoid” list.

An effective DAS system that can manage commercial cellular, a private cellular network and public safety connectivity on one platform can usher the airport industry into the next generation of optimal airport operations. Zinwave’s DAS, with its patented technology, is the only DAS system that can accommodate all of these needs on a single hardware layer, and offer the lowest total cost of ownership.

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