Coming to an airport near you | SITA

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Coming to an airport near you

Published on  02 February by Benoit Vedel , Head of Airport Communications & Wireless
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When we deployed our first AirportHub™ communications platform at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in 2005, we had a vision of providing a strong ATI community value infrastructure with a simpler and more cost effective way for airlines to have reliable legacy and IP connectivity at their hub airports.

Looking back over the last decade at how many airports we have deployed the platform at, there is no doubt we had the right vision. If anything though, we underestimated the strength of demand from airlines for easily accessible international communications not just at major airports, but wherever they operate.

Compelling for airlines

In effect, by installing AirportHub, we have taken on the burden from airlines of dealing with the local telco at each airport on their route network. This can be a time-consuming process with long lead times of as much as six months. When the AirportHub is first deployed at an airport, connections are pre-installed, making it considerably faster for airlines to link to their systems. The infrastructure is securely metalized across all customers delivering economies of scale and the AirportHub is pre- connected to the main ATI applications. Today, there are 260 AirportHubs available across 100 countries. Airlines prefer this single supplier approach because it means they can follow a standard process for a standard solution in a language of their choice, regardless of geographic location. The process is clear and simple, reducing administration costs and saving time. It also makes for faster upgrades, as and when required.

In addition, AirportHub is designed to provide security, reliability and resilience by using hardware and connectivity diversity to avoid single points of failure. This redundancy ensures high availability and reduces the risk of any disruption to airline schedules from airport operations as a result of network access issues.

Airports have bought into the vision

The success is even more remarkable because the platform is deployed mainly for the benefit of airlines. And although there is no cost to the airport operator, it still requires their buy-in for the installation to take place. The fact that so many agree to it is a testament to the value AirportHub provides not just to the airline community, but to the airport itself.

Airports enjoy the fact that it simplifies their life by reducing the complexity of the IT infrastructure, not least through cutting the tangle of dedicated WAN and LAN cabling throughout the airport for each tenant.

Moreover, many airports today are using AirportHub to deploy their own shared services, such as CUPPS and CUSS kiosks, to the same airline community, in a faster and more cost-effective manner.

Wireless world

While we have had notable success achieving our initial purpose, the communications environment has become far more complex now that wireless connectivity is a growing part of the mix. Currently, around 80 of the AirportHubs have been enabled for wireless services making it fast and easy for airlines and other airport tenants to connect mobile devices over the platform. Our aim is to increase the number of wireless enabled platforms to 200 over the coming years.

We are also seeing demand for wireless enablement come from airlines wanting to drive efficiency from their next generation aircraft, such as the A380 and B787. These are gradually making up more of the fleet as older aircraft get replaced. Dubbed flying data centers due to their high level of onboard IT, they require reliable connectivity at destination airports to send back data collected inflight to maintenance centers and OEMs.

The fact that connectivity solutions continue to evolve means that our vision for AirportHub will also evolve in tandem. This year we plan to add another 100 plus AirportHubs to our footprint and eventually cover 80% of all destinations, so keep an eye out as we could soon be at an airport near you.

If you would like further information on AirportHub, checkout our AirportHub positioning paper.

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