Fast emerging trends and technologies are dictating the play at airports. The encroachment of the ‘Internet of Things’ (see "A mind-blowing revolution"), the needs of connected passengers and new aircraft, Big Data’s arrival and the irrevocable move towards cloud-based applications – they’re all driving the demand for a new generation of airport communications.
To cope, airport connectivity of the future must deliver nothing less than the highest levels of performance, reliability and security right across the airport and beyond, for all players in the airport ecosystem.
That means not just airport management and airlines. It must spread to every business, every user, every supplier and every corner of the ecosystem – from retailers to car park operators, border control and customs officers to public transport providers, back-office managements to air traffic control.
“High performance, secure, ‘always-on’ communications across the totality of the airport’s ecosystem is as essential as electricity,” says Rukmini Glanard, VP Communications & Infrastructure at SITA.
“Major trends and new generation technologies are massively driving up the air transport industry’s connectivity demands.
“The task is to cater for these demands now as well as put into place the foundations for new generation communications and infrastructure of the future,” adds Glanard.
“But in building that foundation, the task is also to acknowledge the interconnected and interdependent nature of the airport ecosystem.”
So interconnected has the airport ecosystem become that it makes no financial or operational sense for individual elements and businesses to bring in and buy their own systems.
Not least because of the long lead times and lack of flexibility that’s often found when getting connectivity from local telecom providers, which can discourage the trialing of new services or the expansion of existing operations.
Compounding that, off-airport connectivity can be unpredictable and expensive, inhibiting customers from investing in data-hungry applications that could improve passenger satisfaction.
Shared platform in Rome
We needed to enhance and simplify communications. The tenant offering is now a major improvement over the previous dedicated networking – getting rid of a tangle of multiple routers and circuits, with all the associated complexity
Lorenzo Passaro, Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport
The answer – as often the case in air transport – is a shared solution of value to all community players involved in the airport ecosystem.
In a major program, SITA has equipped more than 200 airports worldwide with SITA’s AirportHub™ shared platform, connecting over 2,700 users. Roll out continues with a target of at least a further 300 in the next three years.
“Being the touch point of the industry’s ecosystem, airports can increasingly explore the advantages of AirportHub, which – as the industry’s leading airport platform – enables them to adopt the shared, common-use approach that’s proved so successful in areas such as check-in, baggage handling and international messaging,” says Glanard.
“Particularly as that shared response brings higher performance, reduced costs, operational flexibility and long-term resilience – all based on a foundation that will cater for future evolutions in communications and IT within air transport,” she adds.
AirportHub is a reliable (99.9% availability), shared and pre-connected platform that helps airports, airlines and others reduce costs, increase non-aeronautical revenues and improve operations (see the box below: ‘Why do airports need AirportHub?’).
It’s of particular value to airlines and airport operators as they seek to exploit the explosion in the volume, quality and availability of data.
It offers airport management improved service to the airport’s tenants at no cost to the airport, while reducing the complexity of IT infrastructure in the airport – cutting the tangle of WAN and LAN cabling that’s come to characterize so much of the behind-the-scenes reality.
“And let’s not forget the growing demand from airlines for high bandwidth,” says Glanard. “AirportHub takes care of that demand – including flexible and mobile wireless connectivity and the ability to ‘plug-in’ aircraft that have increasingly hearty appetites for both giving and receiving data.”
Great news in Moscow
Airport Hub Wireless deployment is great news for our airline partners. Many of them already use this service in international airports: now it is available in Domodedovo too.
Igor Borisov, Airport Director, Domodedovo Airport
“AirportHub is unique – there’s no comparable platform,” states Glanard, “and SITA aims to cover 80% of airline destinations by 2017.”
For airlines, AirportHub has another attraction. It allows them to follow a standard process for ordering, in a language of choice, regardless of geographic location and with a reduced time to connectivity – simply because connections are pre-installed, ready for use.
For airports, AirportHub offers an immediate gain: it’s an infrastructure installed free of charge to the airport and used to provide international connectivity services to airlines and ground handlers.
For users, it provides fully managed end-to-end connectivity to back end systems, town offices and hosted solutions.
Size of airport is irrelevant. AirportHub is installed in 17 of the world’s top 20 airports by passenger number – as well as in Anchorage, an airport with an international capacity of less than 40,000 passengers.
But whether an airport's large or small, high performing standardized connectivity provides a positive commercial image. It demonstrates a strong commitment by the airport to raising service levels, making it easier to attract new airlines and routes.
Middle Eastern promise
Abu Dhabi International Airport chose AirportHub as one of the foundations for its new Midfield Terminal, which will serve around 30 million passengers a year from 2017 (see the box below: ‘Abu Dhabi set for 2017’).
The full range of integrated airport solutions selected includes SITA’s next generation airport management system, CUPPS platform, automated boarding gates, flight information display systems and baggage reconciliation services.
The airport’s current infrastructure and use of SITA managed services (including CUPPS, CUSS, Baggage Reconciliation Service and MaestroDCS Local) – and 99.9% service level availability – is based on AirportHub. The new terminal will be connected to the same AirportHub.
Noting the link between the expansion of the airport and the emirate’s 2030 Economic Vision, Ahmad Al Haddabi, Chief Operating Officer of the Abu Dhabi Airport Company cited the importance of SITA’s local footprint.
“We chose SITA because they can provide an end-to-end integrated solution covering all the technology we need,” he said.
Rome to Russia
Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport was the first in Russia to offer AirportHub wireless, with its Airport Director, Igor Borisov, praising the benefits for the airport’s airline partners, many of whom were already using the service at other international airports (see the box below: ‘A Russian first’).
Similar thoughts were expressed by Lorenzo Passaro, Head of ICT Commercialization at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport.
“We needed to enhance and simplify communications. The tenant offering is now a major improvement over the previous dedicated networking – getting rid of a tangle of multiple routers and circuits, with all the associated complexity and cost,” said Passaro.
“As a cost-effective shared platform, AirportHub achieves this at the airport for all tenants.”
“Airports lay at the heart of the industry’s ecosystem,” says SITA’s Glanard. “Advanced communications at the airport are critical to everyone’s ability to create value, and to benefit from the explosion of data from passengers, airport stakeholders, and new generation aircraft.
“By providing an airport-wide platform at no cost to the airport, SITA’s AirportHub is delivering value to all stakeholders in the air transport community.
“It reinforces belief in the value of shared infrastructure and a common vision for high performance, secure and future-proof services for everyone involved in the complex air transport ecosystem,” she concludes.