São Paulo's Guarulhos International Airport is showing the way for mission-critical radio communications in Brazil. Gilson Pozzati, of DAMM Cellular, talks to Richard Lambley
“Guarulhos is a very important project because it's the biggest Latin American airport", begins Gilson Pozzati, regional manager for DAMM Cellular. “At every airport in Brazil, and I believe in other countries, they have the same problems with multi-systems interference, costs, maintenance, lack of technology. Guarulhos is a model in Brazil, and it's a model, I believe, in Latin America. Everyone says here that if it's possible to make it happen in Guarulhos, everyone can do it in Latin America.”
The airport opened in 1985, and has undergone intense transformation since – not least with the opening in 2014 of a new international passenger terminal which added 34 aircraft stands and boosted passenger capacity by 12 million people per year.
“It was crazy”, Gilson continues. “They used to have about 40 repeaters inside the airport -- yes, 40. “Imagine a system that started with – let's say – five repeaters, and then you keep growing, growing, but without turning any of it off. It was like a Frankenstein! They kept putting in antennas and antennas and making the problem bigger and worse.”
With a proliferation of conventional and trunking systems used by the airport operator and various companies providing services on the site and around it, interference and coverage gaps were becoming increasingly troublesome. “This was the scenario three years ago when we got the job. We found 40 repeaters of different solutions and we convinced everyone to change to the TETRA system.”
The system, provided by Damm's local partner Alcon Engenharia de Sistemas, is a fully-redundant TETRAFlex indoor eight-carrier installation. Supporting voice and data services and offering features such as dynamic group number assignment (DGNA), it allows easy formation of dynamic workgroups for tasks such as baggage handling, catering and aircraft refuelling.
“They realised that our Damm TETRA system was better than they used to have”, says Gilson. “The spectrum efficiency is one of the best; there's the mission-critical aspect of the TETRA solution; and I would say the price of equipment compared to P25 is also relevant.”
Turning a profit
One other benefit is that that the TETRA installation has transformed the airport's radio system from an expense into a source of revenue.“The operator is a private company and they used to have only costs regarding radiocommunication”, Gilson explains.
“They used to pay for maintenance and for expansion. But now they win with the technical solution and also they earn with the solution. They use the radio communications system as a service for other companies inside the airport. And by having only one system, they have more security, they can make a broadband call, they can identify every terminal inside the airport, where they are, by the GPS system, so it's a win-win solution.
“That's why Guarulhos is so well-regarded. Other airports in Brazil are following the same solution. Alcon has two other airports under implementation”
The Guarulhos network is a multi-site system, but from the start it has been operated using just one site. The second site has remained shut down but it can be activated in the event of need. In those three years it has not been needed; but in expanding the capacity of the system, Alcon plans to bring it into use soon as a hot standby, sharing traffic load. Maintenance support is provided by Alcon, which stations trained employees at the airport round the clock. But in this all-IP system, support can be provided from anywhere, including by Damm's engineers in Denmark if necessary.
A changing mindset
After a slowish start, Gilson Pozzati is seeing a growing interest in digital in Latin America, particularly for larger systems and mission-critical applications. “It started with a DMR solution”, he says. “But now some of the biggest companies have been starting to identify the value of having a mission-critical TETRA solution instead of a DMR solution. So I believe we are just on the beginning of a change of mindset in Latin America.
“We started with airports because we have a lot of terminals and we have only one, maybe two sites per airport, butI believe we are going to extend this solution to ports,mining companies – and we have plenty of them – and then to the rail sector and metros – and industry, of course. We have a lot of work to do here.”
Author: Sam Fenwick