Airports are among the most complex technological environments that exist. LTE is a good technology to meet their needs. And now is probably a good time for many airports to transition from their existing technologies to this 4G cellular technology.
That’s the thinking of a foursome of experts from Bell Labs Consulting who recently authored a TechZine article, 10 findings from airport communications analysis, on the topic. The authors are Marie Froment-Donadille, principal consultant; Dennis Ong, senior expert; Carlos Urritia-Valdes, network modeling expert; and Karl Werming, partner.
The authors note that airports are complex in their design; have evolving requirements, such as the ability to serve new aircraft; involve many stakeholders; and have unique security concerns. And aviation communications networks need to integrate with airline networks, building management systems, data centers, and potentially other solutions, the authors note.
Because of the broad array of stakeholders, requirements, and systems involved, and their varying needs and timelines, over time most airports can adopt a wide array of communications technologies. These include solutions based on DECT (News - Alert), PMR and Wi-Fi technologies, according to the authors, and involves various support contacts for them.
The bad news is having a wide array of technologies, some of which are not the best match for today’s requirements, are the current situation for many airports. The good news is that many of these support contracts are approaching end of life so airports can now look to more appropriate solutions.
“Features planned for introduction beginning in 2017 will make LTE (News - Alert) a good fit for emergency services and other high-resiliency environments such as airports,” according to the authors. “LTE technology is more future-proof than other options, brings economies of scale, and will allow airport communications providers to offer more (and enhanced) services to companies that operate within the airport footprint.”
The 10 key findings in the Bell Labs (News - Alert) Consulting analysis of what airport communications providers need to consider for providing LTE include:
- No 1 size fits all. The optimal solution requires a combination of: macro cells, outdoor small cells, and in-building DAS to supplement the coverage of small cells.
- An FDD solution employing 20MHz of low band spectrum (e.g., 700, 850 MHz) with a shared carrier small cell configuration
- Where the low-band spectrum is not available, 20 MHz of high-band TDD is a viable alternative.
- Because of redundancy requirements, the network needs to be over-dimensioned.
- One key parameter that impacts profitability is the amount of existing DAS infrastructure that can be reused, since DAS capacity can be resold to other operators
- Indoor airport design is mainly coverage-driven except for passenger areas. Small cells are needed to support expected future exponential growth of passenger capacity demands.
- High level of macro interference for indoor environments in a small cell shared-carrier deployment does not greatly impact the overall cost of the solution, even though the small cell coverage is reduced.
- Expected traffic in outdoor areas is more uplink-driven relative to traditional RAN deployments.
- Outdoor areas of the airport such as runways need to be designed for high redundancy and reliability. This necessitates more macro cells compared to a traditional RAN deployment -- sometimes more than doubling the number of macros and outdoor small cells.
- Outdoor small cells are required to provide additional capacity and coverage in the areas outside the gates (apron and/or maintenance areas) where airport professionals work around the planes. The required number of outdoor small cells is more dependent on the physical area around the gate than on the capacity.
For more about airport networks, check out our previous story on the future of airport networks and Alcatel-Lucent’s (News - Alert) white paper on the topic, for which there is a link in the story.
Edited by Peter Bernstein