Virgin Atlantic in wireless drive

Virgin Atlantic is commissioning Red-M Group to design the wireless system for its new Clubhouse at London Heathrow’s Terminal 3. The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse has been designed as the world’s ultimate airline lounge in terms of comfort and facilities for its passengers. Red-M was asked to provide a system that not only caters for Virgin Atlantic’s own business needs on site but also enabled a public Internet service provider to supply wireless access to its Upper Class passengers.

“The system needs to conform to the common infrastructure deployment rules developed by BAA, operator of Heathrow”, said Andrew Barker, Chief Marketing Officer, Red-M Group. “Suppliers of wireless infrastructure on BAA properties must adhere to its Electronic Communications Approvals Process which prevents the wireless installations of its tenants interfering with both operational and other approved tenants systems.”

“Our aim is to provide the best comfort and facilities for our passengers”, said Hilary Clark, Senior Design Manager for Virgin Atlantic “We chose Red-M because they are experts in the field of wireless technology. We were confident they could help us design and provide the best service for passengers as well as meet the strict standards of Heathrow.”

“Because of ubiquity of radio waves, even those in different frequency bands could interfere with each other. It’s a bit like noise and at a busy site like an airport terminal, wireless interference can play havoc with electronic check-in desks and shop tills”, explained Andrew Barker. “BAA’s approval process ensures that its tenants can trade without unnecessary interruption. Our job is to contain the wireless activity inside the Clubhouse yet provide enough wireless coverage over the entire 2250 square meters so that Virgin Atlantic passengers have a constant stream of wireless access.”

Red-M was further challenged by the unusual ceiling in the Clubhouse. It is a complex architectural feature constructed of fibre glass reinforced gypsum. In most buildings wireless access points are installed unobtrusively on the ceiling but the architect’s stipulation for this ceiling was that no access points or antennas should interfere with its design. No access points can be visible anywhere within the Clubhouse.

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Red-M designed an innovative grid of more than 1000m of ‘leaky feeder’ to create an evenly distributed signal that is connected to access points located in accessible rooms at either end of the lounge. Leakage of the signal outside the boundaries of the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse has been kept within BAA’s requirements by carefully adjusting the power levels to each section of ‘leaky feeder’ to suit the local environment.
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