Ruckus Wireless™ today announced that KL International Airport (KLIA), one of the largest airport sites in the world, has standardized on Ruckus’ popular ZoneFlex™ indoor/outdoor Smart Wi-Fi products and technology.
The new Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi system is initially being used to provide free high-speed hotspot services to the passengers that transit KLIA every year. KLIA recorded growth in terms of passenger movements to 34.1 million in 2010. The Smart Wi-Fi network will also be used by airlines, ground handling and aircraft engineering staff to access an array of applications.
Operated by Malaysia Airports, KLIA is recognized as the world’s first airport to offer free Wi-Fi in 2000. KLIA’s facilities span over 100 square kilometers. KLIA’s main terminal building alone is equivalent to the size of 72 football fields.
According to KLIA, the move to a new airport-wide Wi-Fi system was driven by the need to give passengers the best possible airport experience by providing more ubiquitous broadband access, reliable wireless connectivity and consistent performance. Forrester Research estimates that more than 25 percent of business airline passengers and 12 percent of leisure travelers go online at airports.
“Airport travelers are among the most sophisticated users of technology and are now equipped with a variety of powerful Wi-Fi-enabled devices,” said Kamaruddin Mahmood, General Manager of Malaysia Airports Technologies. “Consequently, there is a built-in expectation for good wireless coverage and reliable service. The question then becomes, what’s the best technology for delivering the best travel experience given this change in user attitudes and behavior.”
“We upgraded our Wi-Fi network in 2006 to widen the coverage to high user density areas such as passenger concourse and strategic locations where users generally gather. But we quickly discovered that passengers needed Wi-Fi everywhere and expected better and reliable performance,” said Khairul Salleh Ajuhary, manager of Network Service, Malaysia Airports Technologies. “According to Airports Council International’s Airport Service Quality audit results, Wi-Fi had been identified as one of the elements that required further improvement due to spotty coverage and slow connection speeds. So we decided to upgrade our entire system,” Ajuhary said.
According to KLIA, free public access was just one of the key applications for Wi-Fi. Ground handling, aircraft maintenance and cargo handling service personnel wanted better Wi-Fi to communicate with back-office systems. New aircraft, such as Airbus A380, now come equipped with the new system that requires highly reliable Wi-Fi connections to automatically retrieve and load large volumes of aircraft systems data during layovers and turnarounds.
“We needed a complete indoor and outdoor system designed to support a large number of users and wide range of applications,” said Ajuhary. “That’s what led us to Ruckus.”
Reliable Throughput with Much Greater Range
After trialing a range of wireless products and technology from leading suppliers, KLIA selected the Ruckus ZoneFlex™ system due to its ability to provide high capacity connectivity, long range coverage and more consistent performance while minimizing the number of Wi-Fi access points (APs) needed to cover a given area.
KLIA has now deployed 70 Ruckus ZoneFlex Smart Wi-Fi indoor APs and 30 Ruckus ZoneFlex outdoor Smart Wi-Fi APs. The APs are centrally managed through a Ruckus ZoneDirector™ Smart WLAN controller in KLIA’s passenger complex, main terminal buildings, contact pier and Low Cost Carrier Terminal.
“We chose Ruckus because of its unique capability to deliver predictable performance at much greater distances,” said Ajuhary. “We were shocked to find that a single Ruckus AP could cover an equivalent area previously served by two of our legacy APs, and that we could quickly and easily add wireless capacity in an area by reliably meshing APs over the air. This allows us to reduce both capital and operation costs but still provide a better Wi-Fi experience.”
Like many large airports, KLIA has very high ceilings and is constructed with RF unfriendly materials such as glass, steel and concrete. Many areas in the terminal buildings, such as passenger waiting areas, are completely surrounded by glass. “We used to have challenges getting a reliable Wi-Fi signal into these locations because glass diffracts the signal,” said Ajuhary. “Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi was the only system that consistently delivered a strong signal into these problem areas.”
Unlike traditional Wi-Fi technology, each Ruckus ZoneFlex AP integrates patented Ruckus BeamFlex™ technology. BeamFlex automatically focuses and steers radio signals over the best path for each client using thousands of potential antenna combinations. BeamFlex constantly communicates with each client to determine which signal path will yield the highest data range for any given client with the ability to change the antenna pattern and corresponding signal path on a packet-by-packet basis.
“With the Ruckus system, we are maintaining signal strength at -60dB at every spot,” said Ajuhary. “Not only did we save huge amounts in equipment and cabling costs, we were also amazed at how easy it was to configure, deploy and manage.”
Simplifying Outdoor Wireless
According to KLIA, deploying Wi-Fi in outdoor areas had been a major challenge for the airport. “With our previous outdoor system, getting it to deliver the optimal coverage required very careful site surveys and required us to equip the APs with an array of accessories such as external high gain antennas of power and angles, mounting kits and power options,” explained Ajuhary. “It would take a few visits to complete and days to deploy them correctly. Yet the minute we walked away, things could quickly change thereby invalidating our survey.
“The Ruckus system is much different with built-in smart antennas that adapt and optimize performance to each client without having to make any physical adjustments. We just needed to mount it at the best location and let the smart antennas do the rest,” said Ajuhary.
Benefits from Better Wireless Pays Off
The consistency, reliability and pervasiveness of wireless coverage throughout KLIA were immediately reflected in the Airport Service Quality audit. “With Ruckus in place, we’ve seen a lot more concurrent users and a remarkable decline in Wi-Fi complaints,” said Ajuhary.
KLIA is now working with the airlines and service providers operating in the airport to offer them better Wi-Fi for their operations with the requisite VLAN configurations and security policies, including a wireless intrusion protection system, filtering, and so on. A common Wi-Fi infrastructure allows its service providers to operate and collaborate anywhere in the airport.