National airport system gets multi-app wireless mesh networks

June 20, 2006

3 Min Read
Strix Soars in Spain

In what it's touting as the largest aviation-system deployment in a single country to date, Strix Systems Inc. said today that along with solutions provider CN&C it will install wireless networks at all 23 of Spain's national airports.

Deployments have been completed at the airports in Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, and Malaga, and the remaining 19 will be completed over the next 18 months, says Strix director of product marketing Kirby Russell.

AENA, the Spanish Airport Authority, has chosen a combination of indoor and outdoor systems from Strix that will provide blanket coverage for wireless data, voice, and video at the airports.

"The whole idea was that AENA wanted to provide a combination of [public wireless] access with back-end systems for the airports and for on-site businesses," says Russell. "The other solutions they looked at weren't going to meet their needs, because they were basically just providing small public hotspots."

The drivers for the airport systems, according to Russell and Spanish officials, are wireless video surveillance plus a state-of-the-art baggage handling system.

“AENA came to us looking for a wireless solution that could easily manage and support the bandwidth-intensive applications it wanted to deploy,” said Vicente Ariguita, president of CN&C, in a statement. “AENA’s airports are extremely advanced; they are some of the first in the world to use advanced baggage control and plane parking applications."

The CN&C partnership is particularly significant for Strix because, unlike competitor Aruba Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: ARUN), the Calabasas, Calif.-based company has not been especially active in Western Europe and the U.K., concentrating more on deployments in North America and the developing world. According to Jess Thompson-Hughes, managing director for U.K.-based React Technologies Ltd., Strix sells through only one "sub-distributor" for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, through international distributor Connectronics.

The Spanish deployment also represents an advance over the relatively rudimentary wireless networks found in U.S. airports, claims Russell: "For airports this is a tremendous step in the direction they need to go," he says. "We'll see a lot more of these types of implementations in the next few years -- so far, the airports aren’t happening as fast as municipal deployments."

As for U.S. airports, Russell adds, they are primarily focused on providing for-fee wireless hotspots rather than comprehensive wireless networks: "There are a lot of competitors out there that can provide cheap solutions, and so far there's a lot of airports that are satisfied with getting minimal service, rather than trying to build out something that has quality in every respect."

The network at Barajas International Airport, in Madrid, comprises more than 1,000 radios from Strix's Access/One line, running on the 2.4Ghz frequency for front-end connections and the 5.8Ghz band for backhaul. Airport personnel access the network using PDAs and notebook computers, as well as bar-code devices from Symbol. Wireless video cameras will be installed next year along with VOIP capability. Barajas has more than 25 million visitors per year.

The cost of the mesh network at Barajas was around $377,000, according to CN&C; the network at the smaller Bilbao airport cost $23,000.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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