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Unified communications takes off

Kanika Goswami | Aug. 4, 2008
Airports around the world were gearing up for the future and the Mumbai International Airport (MIAL) was presented with a chance to do some catching up.

Because of stringent security requirements the IT team at MIAL decided against IP-VPN. "These are not secure enough," says Anantheswaran. "What we are building is a L2 VLAN, which means that even as an airport, even as a provider, I cannot sniff into the network."

Using this, each application and device on MIAL's network is identified, and only these devices can send traffic. This way no one can introduce or remove devices from the network. It's a provision that no customer has yet asked, which shows how far ahead MIAL is.

On the Wings of Profit

But more importantly, the UC network introduced the airport to a space saving mechanism it desperately needed. With one of the highest property costs in the world, the space that every additional check-in counter ate up hurt.

"[This airport] is right in the heart of the city of Mumbai. Space has always been a constraint because it is an island," says Reddy.

The common check-in counters -- referred to as Common Use Terminal Equipments or CUTE -- will go a long way in helping solve this space crunch. UC's single communication platform allows any airline to use any counter -- not a fixed counter like airlines are traditionally used to. By just logging into the network, an airline's check-in staff can access the various devices that they normally used. So, no matter which counter they use, their telephone extension, for example, follows them. Without UC, airline counters could not be used inter-changeably, which meant that every airline needed three or four counters to itself -- necessitating large amounts of valuable airport space.

Crucially, the UC-enabled CUTE system also enabled airports to expand the number of counters an airline used to meet sudden surges in passenger traffic, since empty counters could be deployed quickly. This helps reduce the crowd in a pre-check in holding area.

The network can also support Common Use Self Service (CUSS) kiosks for passengers who would like to check-in themselves. On the airline staff front, employees could employ VoIP for their use -- an area that was targeted for revenue generation.

In addition, the network will leverage advanced UC communication services like SIP-based presence, IM, collaboration, conferencing and messaging and RoIP (radio over IP).

MIAL also plans to use the network to create revenue in different ways. These include passenger processing services, telephonic services (including VoIP), data services and data center services, which are all given out on rent to airlines. Since the airport is a network provider, all ports are charged. So, if an airline wants to take a port, they are not allowed to do their own cabling, but can plug into a port for a monthly rental.


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