Airports are like miniature smart cities when it comes to their aviation communications networks. The typical big city airport must support hundreds of enterprises, including airlines, shops, restaurants, service companies, and government agencies. It also must support mission-critical airport communications to ensure proper functioning and public safety.
Yet, the aviation communications network at most airports is at a turning point, noted a recent Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) white paper, Re-imagining the airport network for 2020 and beyond.
“To remain competitive and meet the challenges of rapid air traffic growth, operators are expanding and transforming airport infrastructure,” noted the paper. “They are relying more than ever on mission-critical and IT applications that require a flexible, agile, and dynamic communications network.”
Future airport networks are moving toward a converged network architecture, which both brings cost savings while improving efficiency. But not all aviation communications networks are created equal, and there are several key attributes according to Alcatel-Lucent.
First, the future airport network needs a flexible, service-aware virtual private network for optimal application delivery and multi-tenancy operations. This includes a flexible VPN configuration for multitenancy, robust quality of service management for mission-critical aviation communications, and cross-layer OAM for complete troubleshooting and monitoring.
Second, the converged network must have high scalability for future growth, since airport use and demand on the network is only going in one direction unlike the planes that use it: up.
Third, future airport networks need tight integration of optical and microwave transmission for operational elegance. The network needs to reach all sites, so it should employ several different transmission technologies.
Fourth, due to the critical nature of aviation communications, the converged network should have strong resiliency for high survivability.
“Any airport network outage entails operations disruption and economic loss,” noted the Alcatel-Lucent paper. “It can even impact airport and flight safety. It’s imperative, therefore, that the network is robust, providing strong resiliency like SDH/SONET legacy networks.”
Aviation communication networks also should have a rich legacy interface portfolio for seamless TDM migration, since legacy applications are still in use. It also should have strong network protection for secure operations.
Dynamic network management also is a key attribute for a good converged network, as is the flexibility to accommodate software-defined networking as the technology evolves.
“The stakes for airport operators are high,” noted the Alcatel-Lucent paper. “That’s why airport operators are revamping their communications networks—a crucial part of airport infrastructure.”
Edited by Stefania Viscusi