Houston Airport System delivers Gigabit WiFi access to more than 50m passengers with Aruba Networks
George Bush Intercontinental (IAH) and William P Hobby Airport (HOU) offer customers reliable wireless experience with Aruba Networks 802.11ac infrastructure.
Aruba Networks (NASDAQ: ARUN) today announced the Houston Airport System (HAS) has deployed Aruba's 802.11ac solution to enable free WiFi service to customers and guests in its two public passenger airports. With the new infrastructure, all terminal areas of the William P Hobby Airport, and George Bush Intercontinental Airport, are now delivering fast, reliable WiFi services to airport customers. In addition, HAS plans to extend the free WiFi service to all indoor and outdoor areas of the two airports by March 2015.
HAS had previously deployed a private Aruba wireless network for internal use by employees and staff, and upgrading this network coincided with the need to upgrade the public WiFi network for the two airports. HAS was pleased with the performance, reliability and ease of management it experienced with the Aruba solutions used on its private network, so according to Lisa Kent, CTO for HAS, selecting Aruba's 802.11ac solution for the public WiFi network was a straightforward decision.
"One of our strategic priorities is to serve the customer, and although we had a previous public WiFi service, it did not keep up with expectations for quality, speed or even coverage, that passengers in our airport facilities were demanding," said Kent. "Based on our experience with the private network, selecting Aruba for the new public WiFi network was an obvious choice."
Given passenger expectations of increased speed and reliability, the move to 802.11ac technology was a must for HAS. Using Aruba's 200 Series 802.11ac indoor and 270 Series 802.11ac outdoor access points, 7200 Series Mobility Controllers, AirWave Network Management and ClearPass Access Management System for device authentication, HAS is now offering service in 100% of the interior, public spaces in the concourses and terminals including baggage claim, ticket lobbies, check points, hold rooms and food courts. Working with partner and professional services organisation Layer 3 Communications, HAS is in the process of extending coverage to the aircraft ramps, curbside areas and parking garages.
"HAS was very quick to respond to its customers' demands for improved wireless connectivity, while ensuring that future requirements can be addressed with the new, Gigabit WiFi infrastructure," said Craig Wall, managing partner, Layer 3. "Aruba's 802.11ac solution was the ideal choice to address a public WiFi network of this size and with the kind of density of devices common in airport environments."
Wall explained that with Aruba's ClientMatch technology, which continuously gathers session performance metrics from mobile devices to steer each device to the closest and best possible access point on the network, HAS can handle the increased density of mobile devices in the airports and ensure optimal performance and reliability for customers even as they roam throughout the facilities.
Management of the network and the scores of users accessing it every day was one of the key challenges HAS faced in expanding its public WiFi offerings across two large airports. According to Kent, one of the benefits of Aruba AirWave is that it will not only help HAS manage the network from an operational standpoint, but will deliver valuable statistics about network users to help HAS make marketing and business decisions about new service offerings.
"Looking at the initial reports and quantity of data we can obtain from AirWave, we're very encouraged," said Kent. "A key benefit is being able to determine, by percentage, what types of devices are accessing the network, because that helps drive where we focus our efforts."
According to Kent, passenger response to the new WiFi network has been extremely positive and uptake has been rapid, with 21 000 mobile devices connecting to the network the Sunday after Thanksgiving alone - despite the fact that HAS advertised the network upgrade only minimally at that time. Kent said the moment HAS turned on the very first access point at Hobby Airport, passengers began to connect immediately and send positive tweets and comments of praise about the free WiFi.
"We intentionally have a strong feedback mechanism so we can hear from our customers on a variety of issues and WiFi was a topic that kept emerging. Customers wanted more robust WiFi and now that we've addressed their needs, they're telling us how pleased they are," she added.
"The typical airport environment demands reliable, high-speed connectivity and the two HAS airports are prime examples of this," said John Jankowski, area vice-president for Aruba Networks. "Passengers want to stay connected to their families, businesses and friends when they travel. HAS recognised that a typical WLAN network no longer meets their customers' needs. Today's WLAN must be a fully enabled mobility network allowing customers the most reliable, fast, and secure access in ultra-high-density environments which directly results in increased customer satisfaction."
In the future, HAS is considering designing passenger mobile apps and implementing location-based services and way-finding for customers to further enhance their travel experience.
"There are many things that passengers want to locate when they're inside an airport facility, from retail stores and restaurants to lost-and-found facilities and parking garages," said Kent. "We see the WiFi platform as the critical foundation on which we'll layer many of these additional applications and services in the future."