Magazine article Management Today

MCA Management Awards 2009: Technology Winner

Magazine article Management Today

MCA Management Awards 2009: Technology Winner

Article excerpt


Heathrow airport, it's fair to say, has its critics. So when, back in the mid-1990s, BAA began planning a fifth terminal, its vision was of a building that didn't feel like an airport terminal. Instead, it wanted one that conveyed a sense of freedom, with an infrastructure that made travel seamless and effortless. Yes, at Heathow ... that's right.

But much had changed since Terminal 4 was completed in 1986 - not least the revolution in mobile telecommunications. By the end of the '90s, millions of passengers were rushing through Heathrow each year, most of them carrying mobile phones and PDAs using services from a range of network operators that all wanted to instal their own infrastructure at the airport. Yet these network operators were using similar technology to provide similar services.

The same was true of private mobile radio (PMR) systems used by the emergency services, control authorities and BAA itself. BAA felt it needed to take more control over the infrastructure in its buildings and get rid of some of the unsightly clutter of duplicated antennae. T5, it decided, would be different.

BAA and Arup agreed that a common infrastructure, shared by all service providers, was the most elegant solution. The airport operator would instal and manage the infrastructure, and service providers would pay to use it.

Even though network operators were no longer competing on coverage and there was no advantage in having their own infrastructure, BAA's concept still had to be sold to them. But, working closely with the mobile operators and PMR users from the start, Arup was able to convince them of the benefits of infrastructure sharing. In-building distributed antenna systems (Ibdas) were installed for both mobile networks and PMR Essentially, Ibdas take radio signals from a single source in one location and distribute to antennae placed strategically around a building to give the required coverage and capacity.

Outside the terminal buildings, coverage was provided through two 'antenna farms', each consisting of a 30m tower for mounting service providers' antennae. These towers are the only locations at T5 where external antennae can be deployed, yet they enable full coverage across the whole of T5 - a site the size of Hyde Park. …

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