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5G Connecting now - connecting fast

Published on  16 August by Gilles Bloch-Morhange , ATS Products & Solutions, Head of SITA Platform
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5G is coming. The exact timing depends on where you are in the world: Asia Pacific looks set to be first, along with the United States, in the next six months. They’ll be followed by Europe and the Middle East in the following 12 months or so. One thing is for sure, it’s coming sooner rather than later.

The promise of 5G is download speeds of at least 1Gb/s with estimates at up to 10Gb/s and latency down to 1ms from the typical 50ms on 4G. At that rate, we’ll be able to download a full movie in 10 seconds!

But there are more important things to do with speed than downloading a movie.

5G business opportunities

5G is more than just a network upgrade. It represents a transformational shift in the types of mobile services and applications that can be used. With this availability of high-speed secured bandwidth airlines and airports will be able to develop new solutions, for both passengers and operations, ones that just weren’t possible before.

At the very least, 5G will enable airports to provide much better networks for passengers, their business partners and tenants. While faster connections will be welcomed by passengers, the major benefits are on the business side. 5G is likely to replace TETRA, the widely used standard at airports, which today is only voice enabled; the addition of a data capability will create significant efficiencies.

5G network virtualization will bring data closer to the enterprise, enabling new business models between operators and airports. Airports will have more controls on their communication network delivering commercial benefits, higher security and operational improvements for all tenants.

Data harvesting

Airlines will be able to harvest more data, more quickly, from their aircraft, which are fast becoming mobile data centers. The amount of information airlines will be able to access will require careful collation and analysis but will have the potential to make airline operations much more efficient. Most data will flow off the aircraft as soon as it is on the ground, speeding-up the decision-making process. 5G over satellite will provide even more immediate data transmission.

Beyond higher bandwidth

5G will deliver ultra-low latency and massive capacity. Low latency means that fast decisions, such as those required by autonomous vehicles, can be enabled. 5G will also in essence increase the potential for devices to interact with people and other devices.

Areas I see where this will make a big difference include baggage handling, catering, turnaround optimization, passenger flow and resource management. For example, being able to monitor and optimize every single vehicle’s usage around the airport will deliver considerable savings in fuel costs and overall resources, including labor. 5G will also accelerate the growth of smart airports, with next generation facility and building management. 

Slice to optimize or slice and optimize

Moreover, 5G will feature Network Slicing: different communications and Internet of Things ( IoT) use cases will be able to use the same infrastructure independently from the speed or latency requirements therefore enhancing the return on investment. The virtualization in the packet core is also converging with Software Defined Network (SDN) to provide economic benefits to enterprises operating across the air transport industry.

5G winning a vote of confidence

While 5G hasn’t officially arrived yet, there are many data-driven solutions already making their way into airports and airlines. At SITA, we’re already working with a number of airlines and airports on opportunities that exploit the power of 5G networks. For example, several applications around SITA Smart Path™, our self-service biometric passenger processing solution, and our baggage management solution already use 5G like networks  

The focus of our work is to collaborate across the industry to improve economic benefits and operational excellence at and around airports, and in the air. Ultimately, our aim is to make air travel easier every step of the way. Quickly moving vast amounts of data over 5G will help make that a reality.

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