Speed of light

Abu Dhabi Airport uses two FSO links, for connectivity and redundancy. NME talks to the airport’s network engineer to see how the links perform.

  • E-Mail
By  Eliot Beer Published  October 2, 2006

|~|garairi200.jpg|~|“Here in the airport we have the worst conditions, and the FSO system never fails.” Mohamad Al Harairi, senior network engineer, Abu Dhabi Department of Civil Aviation|~|Airports are always demanding environments, and Abu Dhabi’s international airport is no exception. While it is a relatively small hub, it has seen a big rise in traffic over the last few years, as the UAE capital has boomed on the back of oil prices and inward investment. Partly due to this expansion in business, its data demands have increased dramatically. The airport now uses two free space optical (FSO) links from PAV; the first as a backup to the main cable system, the second to provide connectivity to a building with no cable link. “When we thought of the redundancy issue, we had two choices – we could go wireless, or we could use a physical cable,” says Mohamad Al Harairi, senior network engineer for the Abu Dhabi Department of Civil Aviation. “Because the airport is of a certain age, we have limited resources for cables, so we had to think of alternative solutions. We went for a FSO solution, using it between two buildings initially, in order to have a redundant system.” The system consists of an infrared FSO link spanning 600 metres, running at 1Gbit/s. The airport authorities were sufficiently impressed, and implemented a second FSO link, this time a dedicated 100Mbit/s connection between the airport’s fire building, near the runway. “We had no physical cable running to it, and because of its location close to the runways and taxi ways, there is no easy way to fit manholes,” explains Al Harairi. “So we had to use an alternative solution – we went for FSO. It has been working perfectly, and we don’t feel there is a difference between this solution and the physical cable link.” The only maintenance the systems require is regular cleaning of the cameras, to keep them free from dust and dirt. And despite the sometimes harsh conditions – “here in the airport we have the worst conditions,” boasts Al Harairi – the systems have not failed for any technical reasons up to this point. “We don’t have a plan to extend our FSO use as of now, but if anything arises, I would suggest and recommend these systems,” says the senior network engineer. “It’s well manufactured and very reliable – and we have tested it, and we have experience of it. Anything which I come across where I can’t use a physical cable, or I need redundancy, I will go for this infrared system. Al Harairi also comments that the authorities considered microwave systems, but rejected them: “If you use microwave you have to think about licences, and paperwork, and all kinds of approvals from the government.” ||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code