Airport 4.0: How private 5G is a key enabler
In a webinar on 16 November, Nokia and Brussels Airport Company presented how LTE/5G private wireless networks can accelerate airports’ digital transformation.
Airport digitalisation, also known as Airport 4.0, allows airports to embrace paperless operations, enhance their operational and situational awareness, and reduce cost so they can become more competitive. The journey to Airport 4.0 is a challenging one that requires the alignment of many airport stakeholders. To support the digital applications these stakeholders need, airports must provide broadband connectivity everywhere.
As airports embrace digitalisation, the importance of connectivity grows. Pervasive, reliable, secure, broadband wireless connectivity will play a critical role in helping airports realise their Airport 4.0 ambitions by connecting all their stakeholders, processes, and systems.
In a recent webinar, speakers from Nokia and Brussels Airport Company explained how LTE/5G private wireless networks can help airports accelerate their digital transformation and adopt new applications and services now, and in the future.
The clock is always ticking at airside, specifically at the ramp. Guaranteeing or improving turnaround times is what matters. However, many processes still rely on paper and pencil. Airports have faced challenges in helping airlines and airport services companies reliably connect devices to their backend systems to support digital process automation.
Traditional connectivity choices come up short as enablers of automation. Wi-Fi suffers from the shadowing effects of aircraft wings and does not always support proper handovers from indoors to outdoors. Public cellular services have never been designed for the airport. Their best-effort nature results in unreliable wireless connectivity, including coverage gaps, and no guaranteed quality of service.
How private wireless helps
A private wireless network creates the foundation for Airport 4.0 with pervasive connectivity that makes it simpler to embrace process digitalisation and paperless operations. Private wireless also allows airports to increase their operational and situational awareness so they can efficiently resolve any type of incident and minimise its impact on turnarounds.
For example, today’s airport operations centre (APOC) relies almost solely on push-to-talk communications to resolve incidents. At airside, the APOC will not have visuals if an incident occurs outside the CCTV perimeter. A private wireless network makes it possible to equip marshal cars or first responder vehicles with remotely controlled pan-tilt-zoom cameras, allowing the APOC to add visuals to the decision-making process.
With private wireless, airports can provide services to their stakeholders in a reliable and secure way, which is very different from the situation today. In addition, they can capitalise on a monetisation opportunity by offering these services to their stakeholders in a multi-tier subscription model.
Benefits of private wireless
New advancements in wireless technology have allowed enterprises such as airports to start deploying private wireless networks based on 4G or 5G technology. Unlike public wireless networks, private wireless networks are purpose-built for the enterprise and guarantee service wherever it is needed in a secure way. They also keep services and data within the enterprise campus and are exclusively designated for airport operations. Passengers will not be able to connect to these networks.
With private wireless, 4G or 5G networks are scaled down to fit the needs of enterprises. The complexity of cellular technology is taken away from the system, making it as easy to deploy as a Wi-Fi network.
A private wireless network allows an airport to ‘cut the wires’ while extending pervasive broadband connectivity throughout the terminal. It is the ideal solution for increasing asset location flexibility and providing quick, cost-effective connectivity to new assets. For example, a private LTE or 5G network can allow airports to deploy wireless connected kiosks that can be placed wherever airlines need them.