Optimal broadband WiFi still sits at the heart of airport operations

Today’s airports face off against a widening range of extremely pressing and increasingly complicated challenges that extend from countering diverse security threats to ensuring the smooth and seamless processing of constant streams of passengers travelling in record numbers. While the introduction of next generation technologies such as AI, machine learning and robotics is fundamentally impacting on the way future airport operations will be run, today’s operational setup requires pervasive coverage of reliable, high bandwidth, low latency wireless broadband. 

 

Ensuring optimal ground operations

The prospect of securing advanced 5G broadband coverage for such vast entities as major international airports may be enough to make some operators baulk, given the costs involved in installing hundreds of kilometres of fibre optic cable and a wide range of supporting hardware and software. However, the effective utilisation of both today’s and tomorrow’s operational infrastructure depends on it.

From the provision of emerging security measures, such as face recognition scanners and other biometric-based tools, to automated elements around check-in, baggage processing and aircraft maintenance, fast and effective digital communication remains key. This is only becoming more apparent as a greater range of operations begin to rely on mobile applications for their smooth daily running. More than ever, coverage counts, as passenger numbers rise and ground operations staff are feeling the pressure to carry out their mounting tasks in a secure and timely manner. 

 

Delivering next-generation customer experience angle

Alongside the daily necessity to keep airport operations turning with speed and precision, there is another commercial imperative – keeping visitors happy. Gone are the days when passengers would be satisfied with a meagre range of airport amenities when facing a lengthy stopover or, worse still, a delay to their flight time. Today’s airport visitors now expect a competitive range of digital attractions and services, and consider reliable access to their own tech devices to be the absolute minimum of provisions from a reputable international airport.

Accordingly, we are seeing more airports investing heavily in 5G networks to ensure that their digital offerings stay competitive and pleasing to all their visitors. September this year saw Gatwick launch its 5G service as part of its 5-year investment programme to become a true “smart airport”, while LAX reported in August that its free Wi-Fi network speeds reached 70.6Mbps, a 541% improvement since 2016. This continual investment in network coverage and capacity has proven entirely necessary in the case of LAX, where Wi-Fi demand at LAX has grown by nearly 40% in the 12-month period starting in August 2018, as more than half of all visiting passengers now utilise the network via their personal tech.

 

Building the foundation for the next generation of airport services and operations

Satisfying both the daily needs of the airport’s ground staff and its transitioning customers necessitates the comprehensive investment in and improvement of wireless broadband coverage. Without it, essential operational processes cannot be optimally maintained and passengers are left without the means to entertain, inform and prepare themselves during their stay. This is without mentioning the opportunities to access new and enticing market opportunities to present customers with digital offerings capable of elevating their travelling experience beyond the norm.

As such, expect to see further announcements going into 2020 of major airports working to enhance their wireless broadband coverage. For example, in November 2019, Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports (Bangkok’s new and older international airports respectively) announced plans with The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to deploy 5G networks at both airports by the end of May 2020.

 

This article was created in association with Airport Show on 22-24 June 2020. 

 

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