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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.

It helped that the management was open to IT innovation. "Our technology mindset is very advanced so we wanted an airport that was technology intensive," says Reddy.

Convincing users like airlines and carrier lines was a challenge. "They were not used to seeing the airport as a service provider, so it was a kind of a struggle for us. For the most part, we managed this through our commercial team but we went for meetings with airport managers and the airline operators committee. We gave them presentations on what we wanted to do. They have been exposed to international airport operations and systems, especially those in Europe, so they were quite open. Slowly, we started getting people on our side," says Anantheswaran.

"We spent some time educating airlines on the benefits of this technology because this is certainly a paradigm change, what with the airport becoming a service provider. They understand and appreciate the convenience of such services: they had never had the luxury of 24x7 network support," echoes Phillip Cash, airport director, MIAL.

And it made sense for the airline offices. Take for example, when an airline has to shift office (as is likely to happen as MIAL breaks down and constructs new terminals as part of its airport upgrade plan), airline staff only need to move their stuff. The rest, including access and infrastructure, is done for them.

It also cuts cost. "The airport as a service provider lends flexibility. It reduces a tenant's (airlines) capex; the current infrastructure will ensure that they do not need to invest in more infrastructure over time," says Cash.

It also helped, says Anantheswaran, to have support of the managing director, Sanjay Reddy, who is totally convinced that airport should function as a service provider.

Starting from scratch, with no IT team and no network, worked both ways. The advantage was that there was no legacy to bother with. "Since I didn't have a legacy riding on my shoulders, I could build whatever we wanted," says Anantheswaran.

The biggest infrastructure challenge that the IT head faced was laying the fiber optic network across the airside. It is difficult to get permission to lay the network on flying areas but it was done in nine months. Fortunately only parts of the airport that were being refurbished were taking in the network, which meant no breaking and reconstructing was required. The downside was that IT schedules to match the construction timetable.

New Charter

The IT team's work has paid off. MIAL now has a UC network that will see to their communication needs for the next 15 to 20 years. "We sized it so that we almost never run out of bandwidth," says Anantheswaran. "We installed 48 cores of fiber, which is looped into two sets of 24 cores each. This is equivalent to almost 15 TB per second."


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