Airport Business

AUG-SEP 2018

The airport professional's source for airport industry news, articles, events, and careers.

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14 airportbusiness August/September 2018 COMMUNICATIONS By Scott Ewalt Airport Wireless Trends and the Road to the Connected Future Make sure you're evolving to meet the needs of tomorrow's technology today. Wi-Fi has become the fabric of our connected lives. It’s hard to picture a world without it because the technology has rapidly revolutionized nearly every aspect of the last two decades and the pace of its change on society and economy has been staggering. Back in 2001 when Boingo was founded, we dreamed of a world where people could connect to the wireless internet anywhere, with any device. Fast forward almost 17 years and that dream is reality. Today there are more Wi-Fi devices in use than there are people on Earth and over half of the internet’s traffic traverses Wi-Fi networks. In the U.S. alone, the estimated wireless industry GDP impact is at more than $282 billion. Despite its worldwide influence, Wi-Fi is viewed by most people as invisible technology that just works. Many don’t realize the tremendous amount of engineering that goes into delivering seamless connectivity and what it takes to light up a powerful Wi-Fi network. As any airport pro knows, passengers now expect wireless connectivity at every step of their journey and there is much effort happening behind the scenes to meet this demand. And with mobile data consumption continuing to skyrocket — increasing seven-fold by 2021 — the wireless landscape at airports will continue to expand with new opportunities and challenges. Staying ahead of airport wireless trends is imperative as innovation is accelerating faster than ever before. Preparing for 5G, securing networks from outside threats and embracing new technologies for operational efficiencies and passenger satisfaction is critical. Here’s what to know about the evolving wireless ecosystem and how to prepare for the future. 5G is Coming 5G will be a gamechanger for connectivity. Buzz is building for this next and newest wireless standard that will succeed 4G because 5G is more than just a network upgrade, it represents a transformational shift in mobile services. Gone are the days of building a network only for mobile phones. 5G is engineered for a new generation, where billions of connected things will power smart buildings, smart cities, smart homes—and smart airports. 5G will deliver unbelievably fast broadband speeds, ultra-low latency and massive capacity. When using 4G it takes approximately six minutes to download a two-hour movie. Fast forward to 5G and this same movie can be downloaded in a mere 3.6 seconds thanks to speeds of 10 Gbps-plus. A flurry of 5G activities will continue over the next 20-plus months, with larger commercial availability hitting in 2020 and post-2020 — underscoring the need for airports to start mapping out their 5G strategies without delay. In recent years, airports have densified wireless using a mix of cellular distributed antenna systems (DAS) and Wi-Fi to combat the rapid growth of mobile data consumption. With 5G, densification strategies will be amplified, requiring “hyper-dense” network environments that bring even more nodes closer to the end user. To prepare for convergence, airports must operate wireless on all sides of the spectrum, leveraging cellular solutions like DAS and small cells, unlicensed networks like Wi-Fi, and shared spectrum like CBRS 3.5 GHz, recently branded as OnGo.

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