Düsseldorf International Airport is the third-largest airport in Germany, after Frankfurt and Munich International Airports. In 2012, the airport transported 20.8 million passengers and managed an average of nearly 600 aircraft movements a day.
Located about nine kilometers from Düsseldorf, the capital city of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the airport serves as the main hub for airberlin. It also serves as a new hub for Lufthansa, which operates about 300 flights a day to and from Düsseldorf. In fact, Lufthansa has selected Düsseldorf as the diversion airport for its A380 aircraft in the event of bad weather in Frankfurt.
In total, the airport hosts 70 airlines and supports flights to 180 non-stop destinations on all continents. As the primary airport for the Rhein-Ruhr region – the largest urban area in Germany and one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world – Düsseldorf provides a range of connections both within Europe and to air transport hubs in the United States, the Middle East and Asia.
The business challenge
In 2008, to support continued growth and improve overall productivity, Düsseldorf International and SITA Airport IT GmbH, the company that manages its information technology, decided to replace the airport’s existing communications system.
Among its key considerations when looking for a new solution was mobile technology. Düsseldorf International wanted to enhance its operations and contribute to greater efficiency by providing a single mission critical communication solution that all companies, for instance airlines and ground handlers and agencies, such as the fire-brigade, could access via mobile devices – at all locations.
"We selected SITA because of its strong track record and know-how in delivering communications solutions specifically for airports. SITA was also the only company that could both integrate the new application with our existing systems and provide a fully managed solution,” Thomas Schnalke, Managing Director of Düsseldorf Airport.
At the same time, Düsseldorf had a number of other business and technical requirements. The solution had to meet demanding mission-critical communications needs – namely the daily exchange of voice, data and short messages (SMS), with high traffic loads and no downtime. It also had to support up to 3,000 subscribers. And finally, Düsseldorf was seeking a digital solution – one that could handle value-added services such as Flight-Oriented Dialing (FOD), which enables immediate communications among all personnel involved in aircraft turnarounds at the gate.
After considering a variety of solutions, Düsseldorf International and SITA Airport IT GmbH chose SITA’s Professional Mobile Radio Solution.
In September 2008, as part of a 10-year, US$ 7.8 million deal, SITA began rolling out its Professional Mobile Radio (PMR) solution to an initial 1,200 subscribers at Düsseldorf International Airport. The solution includes a state-of-the-art digital radio platform and a digital radio system, both of which are based on the TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) standard, which meets the needs of the most demanding mission-critical communications sectors.
The PMR system functions as a shared radio network for the many different user groups at the airport. It is intended to:
- Cost-effectively bring all users, including all ground operations staff and all airlines using the airport, to a single radio platform,
- Minimize the number of radio terminals required at the airport,
- Ensure efficient use of the available radio spectrum,
- Provide secure, encrypted communication, and
- Enable a smooth migration path.
Most importantly, it helps the airport more effectively manage the many challenges and complexities it faces daily as it collaborates with multiple stakeholders in real-time.
In addition to its main benefits, the solution also incorporates several value-added applications, including:
- Flight-Oriented Dialing (FOD): Enables immediate communications among all personnel involved in aircraft turnarounds at the gate. By dialing the flight number, each individual member (e.g. ramp agent, load master, cargo, catering or cleaning) can be contacted via a simple task code and the flight number.
- Security Guard control: Requires security guards to use a portable device to “swipe” an RFID tag on pre-defined control points on patrol routes. This ensures that guards are following their routes and alerts supervisors to any problems or deviations.
- Passenger Emergency call: Provisions emergency calls from the Sky Train system, a monorail connection, which operates 23 meters above the ground at Düsseldorf International, between the railway station and the terminals. This ensures reliable communication and fire alarm signals from the train in the event of an emergency.
“SITA's professional mobile radio is part of our fully integrated communications portfolio for airports, which is designed to help reduce costs, gain efficiencies and increase revenues. We believe that these types of new mobile and wireless technologies will fundamentally change the way airports operate in the future, by creating innovative, cost-effective services for airports, airlines and passengers alike.” Boris Padovan, Regional Vice President, Sales and Relationship Management, Europe, SITA.
Since launching the new system, Düsseldorf International Airport has realized a number of benefits. These include:
- Increased security: The “signal coding” built into the new system offers protection against unwanted eavesdropping. It also ensures either scheduled or ad-hoc security programs and instructions can be transmitted quickly and efficiently to security personnel on the ground using JAVA-enabled handsets.
- Increased capability to handle mission critical communications: Düsseldorf’s radio network must cope with a high traffic load, while remaining operational at all times. SITA’s PMR meets these needs with a high level of redundancy at both the node and system level, which guarantees the highest service availability.
- Excellent coverage: At Düsseldorf International, several radio network users communicate within a small area – from airlines to ground handlers to police and fire officials. The SITA solution, based on digital radio technology, provides perfect coverage both within and outside buildings throughout the entire airport – from runways and cargo areas to passenger areas and hangars. The radio coverage extends for a radius of 5 km around the airport, to provide radio communication in the case of emergencies outside the airport perimeter.
- Integrated voice and data capabilities: With its open standards and interfaces, the system can support a wide variety of integrated voice and data capabilities – both now and in the future. In addition, SITA can help the airport integrate any future applications into its existing communications solution.
- Digital call quality, with a greater choice of call types: The SITA system has sensibly improved voice quality available on the radio system at Düsseldorf Airport. It also gives the airport a wider choice of call types from wide area group calls and multiple group calls to private telephone calls.
“SITA professional mobile radio provides us with many benefits, from enhancing security to increasing productivity to offering greater capabilities to handle our mission critical needs. In addition, the capacity of SITA to offer an integrated and managed service suits our needs perfectly," says Dr. Christian Jahncke, Managing Director, SITA Director, SITA Airport IT GmbH.