Developing And Implementing A Robust Wireless Strategy

BAA is the World’s leading airport company, owning and operating seven UK airports and with interests in 12 more internationally.

Over 140 million passengers pass through BAA’s airports in the UK every year, and the company provides over one million square meters of commercial accommodation for more than 800 organisations at its airports, making BAA one of the largest commercial landlords in the UK.Objectives and challengesIt became abundantly clear to BAA that they needed to manage the advent of widespread wireless usage throughout their estate, which resulted in the preparation of an invitation to tender for the wireless work to help them:• Identify and drive forward the implementation of technologies which will deliver benefits not only to BAA, as the landlord, but to tenants and travellers alike• Adopt a proactive stance towards the introduction and on-going management and control of wireless technologies and their usage throughout BAA’s locations.Planning for the futureIn 2002, there were strong indications that wireless technologies were becoming more prevalent and that BAA’s airports could well expect high demand for wireless services across the spectrum of commercially used radio frequencies. BAA took the decision to adopt a proactive stance towards the introduction and ongoing management and control of wireless technologies and their usage throughout BAA’s locations.”We were aware that our airports would be extremely interesting for many wireless LAN service providers. It was abundantly clear to us that we needed to manage the advent of widespread wireless usage throughout our estate: the alternative would be total chaos, with poor quality of service and high levels of interference being just two of the more obvious outcomes of an unmanaged environment.

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“BAA prepared an ITT (invitation to tender) for the wireless work. Red-M was awarded the contract after a comprehensive evaluation process, based on their extensive experience of wireless technologies and their credibility in the eyes of key stakeholders such as the operators and their links to groups such as Ofcom. Their Total Airspace Management (TAM) approach, which provides the ability to take control of all wireless technologies with a cohesive strategy that leads from initial audit, through to design, implementation and management, was a clear match for the needs of BAA.The ITT outlined three main areas of work which were to be undertaken by Red-M: an audit of the existing wireless systems on the airports, a wireless strategy based on a common infrastructure for all wireless systems and, finally, the development and definition of ongoing wireless management policies.The wireless auditThe Audit was designed to identify the equipment that had already been installed by cellular operators and other radio service providers across all seven of BAA’s airports in the UK, and to check how well it had been implemented. Andrew Ellis: “With a number of commercial negotiations looming with various wireless providers, we believed the Audit would provide us with solid, accurate information, and position us well for these discussions.

“The Audit was conducted by Red-M’s engineers who carried out a survey of the seven airports, using the company’s specialist high-speed/high accuracy data logging equipment based on its patented MbP and IBiSA technologies. These provide continuous logging of positions of access points rather than the more traditional and less reliable spot measurements approach.Commenting on the resultant Audit report, Andrew Ellis said: “The survey and report took about three months to complete and provided us with information, both textual and diagrammatic, on where wireless systems were located, the quality of their build and what, if any, remedial action needed to be taken. Red-M’s attention to detail was extremely important for us in our subsequent dealings with a range of service providers, and I was very pleased with the high standard of the Report.”Health and safety issuesAs part of the Audit process, Red-M also undertook a Health and Safety Audit.

This was designed not only to ensure compliance with regulations but also to provide a formalised approach to safety standards. The Audit was carried out by Red-M’s engineers using specially designed equipment and validated methodologies to provide a comprehensive, independent Health and Safety Audit which measured levels across all radio frequencies and technologies.The wireless strategyAt the same time as the Audit was being prepared, Red-M was working on the development of a strategy for the future deployment of wireless in a controlled and managed manner throughout the airports. This was undertaken in close collaboration with key BAA stakeholders both within the airport and externally.Andrew Ellis commented that Red-M’s existing strong working relationship with the industry regulator, Ofcom, was an important element in this process. It underpinned Red-M’s standing in the industry and thus helped to contribute to smoothing the process of defining BAA’s strategy which would affect all parties both now and into the future.

A common infrastructure approach for all wireless activity – integrating both design and installation – was, in the view of both Red-M and BAA, the ideal approach for the airports. This would involve the deployment of a single infrastructure owned by BAA, which would be ‘rented out’ to third parties, rather than allowing the implementation of different wireless systems and technologies for different applications. It would avoid problems of interference, poor quality of service (QoS) and, most importantly, optimise use of the valuable radio spectrum throughout BAA’s estate.Assessing the role of common infrastructure for wireless LAN and for cellular servicesThree years on from this initial work, the benefits of the common infrastructure are now clearly evident throughout BAA. As well as being utilised in existing buildings, this approach has also been used for the new Terminal 5 for the deployment of wireless LAN and a distributed antenna system for the deployment of mobile.

Andrew Ellis: “The fact that the infrastructure for the wireless LAN services we have deployed to date in the existing terminals is based upon the common infrastructure approach means that deployment of a service to meet one stakeholder’s needs, actually provides coverage which can be utilised by the wider airport community.”Business case analysisAndrew Ellis commented: “Another strength of Red-M was their ability to help us put together and present rational business cases. We were looking for a wireless partner who would be able to help us put forward both technical and commercial cases to stakeholders and service providers and be able to present independent, comprehensive, accurate information. In Red-M, we found such an organisation.”Wireless policyThe final phase of Red-M’s work was the development of a broader wireless management strategy which could be used by BAA and given to all relevant outside bodies. Red-M provides a structured approach to developing and implementing operating policies and procedures to enable the management of existing, upgraded or new wireless systems within the wireless network infrastructure.

Specific rules and regulations are set to define how the infrastructure and the applications will work including power levels, bands, channels, processes and procedures.Andrew Ellis: “I believe that at the time we commissioned Red-M to undertake this wireless policy project, no other large property managers were doing anything like it. With regard to the robust wireless management strategy we have adopted, although some organisations are surprised when they receive precise information about what they can and cannot do on any BAA location, we take the view – and this is shared by Ofcom – that we are acting as a responsible landlord, looking after the best interests of all our stakeholders and our customers, managing the large demand for wireless services, operating safely and effectively in a very busy radio environment.”Forging an ongoing partnershipRed-M is continuing to work closely with BAA as the organisation’s wireless partner. A recent project involved a theoretical assessment of the potential benefits of installing WiMAX, followed by a pilot installation.

Offering the ability to deliver broadband wireless connectivity with a reach of up to 30 km (as compared to the 200 m range provided by Wi-Fi), WiMAX appears to offer an interesting solution for an organisation such as BAA, where the cost of laying cables across busy runways is disruptive and expensive. The results of the trial will be judged on the technical and commercial benefits which could be realised by BAA and its airline business partners by using this new technology. Red-M also works with Ofcom on BAA’s behalf, including making representations and becoming involved in consultation processes.Andrew Ellis concluded: “Red-M is wellregarded within the wireless industry, including Ofcom, and this standing continues to be one of the key strengths of our partnership. Their knowledge of wireless technologies runs deep, and we have been able to tap into this intellectual capital by asking Red-M to present to some of our partners. They also provide us with technology briefings, which ensure that we are able to keep abreast of the latest developments in the fast-moving and constantly changing wireless environment – for the benefit of BAA, its partners and the travelling public.”