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May 29, 2014

Picking up signals at the Queen’s Terminal in Heathrow

The challenges of delivering wireless infrastructure in a building shaped like a 'wave'.

By Jimmy Nicholls

Terminal 2 at Heathrow will open this June with an entirely revamped wireless service, offering improved coverage to people working and travelling through what will be known as ‘The Queen’s Terminal’.

Implemented by systems integrator affini, the new service will tackle the challenges of delivering reliable connections in a busy and complex environment through the use of an in-building distributed antenna system (IBDAS) that spreads signal sources around the terminal.

Jason Colombo, CEO at affini, said of the building: "It’s not a regular rectangle shape, it’s kind of like a wave. Plus also some of the materials are reflective to our radio frequency signal."

"It’s above ground, it’s below ground, it’s confined space. It probably brings together all of the demands you would normally get," he added.

Using a series of specialised tools, the firm aims to provide good signal throughout the building. "What we’re able to do is not only model the space but also the materials in that space, so you get a much more accurate footprint of where you do and don’t get that signal," Colombo said.

Robert Bamforth, Quocirca principal analyst, said: "One of the big things is that the growth of wireless over the last 5 to 10 years has seen an increase in the amount of mobile traffic."

"You have got significant areas that are not necessarily designed for radio signals. You don’t want masses of noise. Somehow you need to be able to deliver most service capability in concentrated areas."

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When done correctly IBDAS can lower power costs, reduce radio noise and put wireless devices closer to signal source. The implementation of the system of Heathrow continues a growing trend in the delivery of radio signals.

"With somewhere like an airport you have got a constantly changing set of events. I think it’s what makes it harder, Bamforth said, adding that affini seemed to be good at meeting those demands.

The opening of the terminal follows news that London City Airport will begin experimenting with the Internet of Things, as it seeks to improve passenger experience.

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