Affiniti takes Terminal 5 online

Affiniti takes Terminal 5 online

Affiniti has landed itself a role at Heathrow’s new terminal, Sam Trendall finds out what the project entails

Voice and data integrator Affiniti is putting the finishing touches to work on the communications network at Heathrow Terminal 5.

The terminal opens for business on 27 March and the fast Ethernet metropolitan area network recently passed a testing procedure, where 3,000 volunteers went through the various procedures of checking-in and boarding a flight.

Following the installation of the uninterruptible power supplies, work on the network was finished at the end of last month.

Technology installed by Affiniti will be used in all 96 check-in kiosks, as well as passport control and staff communications.

The network has 7,000 available ports and will be used by 5,000 British Airways (BA) employees. It will carry information about departures, staff schedules, flight plans, passenger information and a number of other back-office systems.

Affiniti sales director Ross Logan said: “The network has had a very smooth deployment. Affiniti is used to working on large network operations in both the public and the private sector.”

“BA looked at the market for people who could at least bid for this type of project. For a project of this size and magnitude, it needed to make sure it picked a firm in which it had complete confidence.”

“Our references were a big factor in securing this contract. We have a proven track record of working on very large, very complex network solutions with blue chip organisations that expect projects to be brought in on time and on budget. Our plan was rigorous and detailed enough for BA.”

Steve Murphy, Affiniti’s general manager for the BA account, said that Affiniti had installed network technology in 163 rooms at Terminal 5, compared with 30 in a previous
project at Terminal 4. Murphy also revealed that complications caused by working in an unfinished building led to the project taking more than a year, rather than the six months previous projects for BA had lasted.
“With Terminal 5, BA gave the responsibility for cabling and power to the British Airports Authority (BAA). In the past, we have had responsibility for these things, or we have dealt direct with BA about them. So we have had to develop new working relationships,” he said.

“The BAA is sometimes not the easiest to get along with, but we forged a good working relationship and work well together now.
“Additionally, we have been working on a building site. Health and safety procedures were vigorous and we had to go on four induction courses before we could begin work.”
BA has been one of Affiniti’s biggest clients since 2000 when Affiniti won a five-year contract to migrate 30,000 user ports in 70 different buildings at Heathrow and Gatwick airports from an ATM to an Ethernet environment.

In 2003, Affiniti began work on the communications networks at BA’s 30 regional sites in the UK. Work on the Terminal 5 network began 18 months ago and Affiniti has 49 staff permanently based at Heathrow and Gatwick to support BA networks across the UK.

“I would like to think BA now sees us as an integral part of their team, adding value. The relationship has grown and it was key to make sure that we fitted together very well from a cultural standpoint,” said Logan.
Terminal 5’s opening will mark the fruition of a project that has lasted for more than 20 years. Architect Richard Rogers, who has designed buildings including the Millennium Dome and the Pompidou Centre in Paris, was chosen to design the terminal in 1989.

A planning application was submitted in 1993 and a public enquiry into the plans lasted from 1995 until 1999. The decision to grant planning permission was finally announced in November 2001.
Construction has cost £4.3bn and the main building is the largest free-standing structure in the UK. There are also two satellite buildings, the second of which will open in 2010 and the terminal has been designed to deal with up to 35 million passengers a year.

Phil Hawker, BA’s communications networks manager, said: “Moving into our new home at Heathrow is a great opportunity to optimise the technology that lies behind our operation here. We have made sure that everything we are doing has been well proven in the existing terminals.”