TETRA network deployed at ACSA

Issue 6 2021 Transport (Industry)

The Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) manages a network of nine airports in South Africa, including the three main gateways – OR Tambo International, Cape Town International and King Shaka International Airports.

In 2017, the nine airports facilitated almost 41 million passengers, which translates into a 33% growth over six years. Africa’s largest and busiest airport is OR Tambo International Airport, facilitating over 21 million passengers annually (pre-Covid-19). More than 50% of South Africa’s air travelling passengers are facilitated through the airport. Cape Town International Airport, Africa’s third largest airport, processed over 10 million passengers annually, also pre-Covid.

“The concept of ‘aerotropolis’, whereby a range of manufacturing, logistics and commercial facilities are clustered around an airport, is likely to further accelerate the core role of airports. This is particularly true for King Shaka International Airport and its associated Dube Trade Port and the drive for an aerotropolis surrounding OR Tambo International Airport,” says Wayne Fourie, sales executive, telecommunications, at Global Communications (an Elvey Group company and part of the Hudaco Group of companies).

Airports rely on communications as a crucial part of their business to ensure both passenger safety and handling processes. This resulted in a need for a TETRA system (from Rohill) to allow secure communications between departments. However, with airports being some of the most challenging environments due to their 24/7 operation, rolling out and replacing an existing network demands impeccable planning.

“During the migration to the TETRA network, gateways co-existed to prevent downtime of communications. The migration was completed without any negative impact on operations,” says Fourie.

The TETRA radio infrastructure at the airports is based on TetraNode high-end open industry standard and high-availability server platforms. These are specifically designed for carrier-grade telecommunications with excellent system performance and 99,999% availability.

“OR Tambo International Airport experienced challenges with the tunnels, basements and baggage departments. Therefore, a distributed antenna system was implemented, allowing communications to take place in areas with expected low signal,” says Fourie.

“The TETRA network has brought some positive changes to our daily operations and we have experienced minimal downtime. The network is more stable and this is critical to our daily operations as we are operating on live equipment. Areas where the network was a challenge in the past have been extended for coverage. The support has been outstanding,” says Ratau Moja, operations manager, aviation, at ACSA.

The airports collectively use 34 carriers and 12 TetraNode eXchanges with 9000 users, but with the capacity to support many more users. “All airports are operating off a fibre backbone, granting access to all sites from any airport at any given time. This allows for faster response times, less lead time for inspections and seamless upgrades from any location,” says Fourie.


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