Private Wireless Networks: Benefits for airports 

Jaime Sanchez by Jaime Sanchez | Feb 21, 2024


Jaime Sanchez, Principal Product Manager 5G Space Modern Connected Apps, at Microsoft, talks about the benefits Private Wireless Networks bring to the airport operations, security, and customer service.  

While every airport is unique, all need to drive continued operational excellence and improve the customer experience. Unlocking an airport’s full potential depends on continuing innovation and addressing the biggest challenges today and in the future.  

New technologies are emerging as direct responses to these challenges at airports around the world. Private Wireless Networks (PWNs), or cellular networks owned and operated by private organizations rather than public carriers, enable airports to flexibly address their most pressing challenges with innovative new use cases while building a platform for long-term success. PWNs allow for high-speed, wireless transmission of voice and data communications over a wide area, enabling coverage across the airport on a single network.  

According to the 2022 Airport IT Insight Survey by SITA and ACI World, 43% of airports are already investing in Private Wireless Networks, while an additional 39% plan to invest in research and development for that technology by 2025.  

How do Private Wireless Networks drive value? 

Every airport is different, but the vision for Private Wireless Networks is consistent: high-speed coverage across the airport environment, enabling airports to transform how they address their most pressing challenges, often leveraging edge compute and AI functionalities that are otherwise difficult to implement.  

  • Intelligent Security:  

Close long-standing security gaps today with next-generation capabilities. With a high-speed network that can extend coverage across the premises, airports can place more and better cameras and sensors in a cost-effective manner, and leverage AI to detect more potential issues, faster.  

  • Operational Efficiency: 

Optimize existing processes and create new digital services on a fast, flexible network. PWNs enable airports to better track assets and processes and generate near real-time insights and opportunities for improvement.  

  • Empowered Decision-makers: 

Increase awareness and insight generation and discover new avenues for efficiency. With expanded coverage, airports can place sensors and develop processes that allow for proactive responses to emerging situations, improving response time and preventing small issues from developing into larger problems.  

  • Cost Effectiveness: 

Streamline processes, lower the cost of innovation​, and maximize existing investments. Equip your workforce with the latest technology, and leverage AI to maximize their efficiency and redirect their effort to processes that require a human touch.  

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Use cases for Private Wireless Networks 

The full value of Private Wireless Networks for airports is often achieved with multiple, transformative use cases. The good news is that airports can start with a simpler use case, and later build upon the network with further, more complex use cases. Here are some potential starting points:  

  • Perimeter Security:  

Securing the perimeter can be one of the most expensive and labor-intensive processes airports face. PWNs allow airports to place wireless cameras/sensors along the fence line or deploy autonomous guided vehicles to patrol the perimeter and automatically alert security forces if it detects an anomaly. These use cases can be achieved without the range concerns of Wi-Fi or the expense and disruption of burying cable for connectivity, making them ideal for providing connectivity and security services to difficult-to-reach places like remote parking lots. 

  • Dynamic Digital Signage: 

Passengers rely on digital signage for navigation and construction warnings, and airports rely on them for advertising. PWNs make it possible for airports to quickly deploy digital signage from roadway to ramp. Airports can place these signs in the exact spot they’re needed without worrying about cable or Wi-Fi range, and update and deploy mobile signs in near real time based on the airport’s dynamic needs. 

  • Network Unification: 

Airports may rely on multiple different networks for coverage in different areas or have multiple different stakeholders competing for bandwidth in the same areas. PWNs can help unify networking operations to distant parts of the airports and have enough bandwidth to allow stakeholders to share a network, while allowing for dynamic bandwidth allocation based on shifting needs to help ensure critical processes can run uninterrupted. 

  • Connected Ramp Environment: 

The ramp environment is one of the most important parts of an airport—and one of the most challenging to provide connectivity for in that busy environment with many different vehicles and stakeholders. PWNs allow airports to create a connected ramp environment, with advanced connectivity for frontline workers, near real-time asset tracking, and improved sensor placement, allowing airports to improve on-time service rates.  

How edge compute enhances connectivity and unlocks new use cases? 

The unique capabilities of PWNs can be enhanced with the power of edge compute. Private multi-access edge compute (MEC) is an architectural framework that facilitates the processing of data close to the end user, minimizing latency and enabling faster and more reliable connectivity and service delivery. 

In combination, these technologies unlock the power of AI where it’s needed most—integrated into key processes throughout the premises—bringing to life a new breed of transformative, mission-critical applications called Modern Connected Apps. 

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Learn more about Private Wireless Networks 

So far, we’ve provided a quick overview of what Private Wireless Networks can do for airports. But there’s so much more they can do. To learn more about PWNs, including their ROI and how to share the benefits with other airport stakeholders, check out the eBook. If you wish to join Airports Council International 5G Working Group please contact us at airportit@aci.aero.

Jaime Sanchez

Jaime Sanchez

Principal Product Manager 5G Space Modern Connected Apps, at Microsoft
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