Gatwick Airport embarks on communications overhaul

Gatwick Airport has embarked on a five-year project to replace its 60-year-old communications infrastructure with a cloud-based system

Gatwick Airport has embarked on a five-year project to replace its 60-year-old on-premise communications infrastructure with a cloud-based system.

The platform will improve collaboration and mobile working capabilities.

Following a deal with its existing telephony supplier Xchanging as the prime contractor, Fujitsu and Cisco were subcontracted to build the cloud service.

The roll-out began in September and is based on Fujitsu’s Cloud Connect Collaborate service, a hosted voice and collaboration service based on the Cisco hosted collaboration solution. It is hosted and managed in the Fujitsu Cloud, and operated out of two Fujitsu datacentres in the UK.

Gatwick is the UK’s second-largest airport, serving 34 million passengers a year, with traffic set to increase to over 38 million by 2020.

After a review of its existing communications, Gatwick decided to update the technology originally installed in the 1950s.

The cloud-based platform will feature collaboration services, including voice, video, instant messaging and presence, to 1,100 of Gatwick’s staff initially, before extending the services to all 2,500 airport users and commercial customers.

The service will allow the airport to buy on a pay-per-use basis and easily scale capacity up and down. Staff will be able to work anywhere and connect to the platform from any device with access to the full suite of collaboration tools.

The switch to the cloud platform required minimal construction costs because it only needs one cabling infrastructure.

“This is a crucial investment for Gatwick, as we focus heavily on making Gatwick the airport of choice, not only in London, but in Europe”, said Michael Ibbitson, CIO at the airport.

He said the IT department is currently focused on improving the integration of data and IT services, so it can offer a better service to passengers.

“By adopting this new approach, we’ll be transforming the way our staff operate – video conferencing with each other for instance, and working from home effectively during snow days. This slicker operation will have a significant impact on passenger experience – which is what we’re always striving to improve,” he said.

The new communications infrastructure is the latest in a series of technology initiatives at Gatwick, as the airport continues to move away from the systems it inherited from former parent BAA.

Earlier this year, the airport signed an IT services deal with Getronics to consolidate the airport's 170 applications over the next four years.

When Gatwick separated from BAA in 2010, its then-CIO Stuart Birrell told Computer Weekly that of the 133 systems then in place at Gatwick, all but two need to be upgraded. About half of them were to be cloned from BAA's old systems and re-installed, but the other half needed to be rebuilt or replaced.

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