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Full fibre broadband lift-off at Cambridge City Airport



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A real-life demonstration of the power of full fibre broadband was successfully conducted at Cambridge City Airport and is now starring in a TV advertisement.

Cambridge City Airport, Marshall, Kevan Craske, director (54163434)
Cambridge City Airport, Marshall, Kevan Craske, director (54163434)

For the test, a remote air traffic control system was set up in a family home in Harrow, Middlesex and connected by the EE Full Fibre Max broadband router. The remote unit then shared relevant data in real-time, providing accurate airspeed and rate of descent, aiding a pilot to smoothly fly and land an aircraft at Cambridge City Airport.

During the period of the project – which was filmed for use in a media campaign now showing on TV and on YouTube (see below) – airport staff were building familiarisation on various new installations of air traffic navigational aids including new flight data management system, voice communications control system, VHF directional finder system and an instrument landing system.

Cambridge City Airport, Marshall, full fibe broadband real-time demo (54163432)
Cambridge City Airport, Marshall, full fibe broadband real-time demo (54163432)

The test identified how different types of aircraft and crew both use and interact with air traffic control services, which helps the air traffic control team calibrate the systems and their own human machine interface (HMI) set up to ensure the controller workloads are kept as low as possible. In addition, the Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft used for the filming gave the Cambridge City Airport air traffic controllers another opportunity to practice sequencing of aircraft in relatively close proximity.

Pete Jeavons, marketing communications director at BT and EE, said: “Our new campaign is all about EE broadband that can handle anything you throw at it, and this real-life demonstration helps to communicate that in a really exciting way. In today’s connected family home, we know how many devices can be online at one time and this is increasing all the time, so this demonstration was about showing that, despite how many devices are already relying on EE Full Fibre, the broadband can still cope with so much more.

“Our Full Fibre Max broadband connects 100 devices all at once, so you can download music, stream sport, enjoy glitch-free gaming and even land an aircraft all at the same time, because it can really handle anything you throw at it.”

The test took place over two days, allowing the Harrow home and the control tower in Cambridge to link to the aircraft via a heavily modified ex-MOD vehicle run by Cambridge-based creative agency, The 5Gs. Oliver Kibblewhite, The 5Gs founder, said there were no glitches with the link-up or the on-site work involved at the Middlesex address.

He said: “The 21m aluminium mast was mounted on the rear of the truck, as seen in the photo.

“We were on site in Harrow for two days in total, with the activation taking one day.

Aircraft landing via broadband in Harrow, Middlesex, at Cambridge City Airport
Aircraft landing via broadband in Harrow, Middlesex, at Cambridge City Airport

Ben Hyman of FIX8Group, a Manchester-based audio-visual consultancy, worked with worked in the truck with The 5Gs.

He said: “We were able to get signal from the airfield to the house in under 100 milliseconds which is an exceptionally low latency solution and we’ve worked with a number of developers to put this solution together.

“The challenge around that is that you're very much limited by what the internet can give to you so you try and get the network conditions as good as possible and try and get the encode, compress, send and decode at the other end – and to do all that in sub-100 milliseconds is a very tall order. Ultra-high power graphics cards and CPUs and lots of customisation of software so that we can tweak it, to use the network conditions to our best advantage.”

Sam Kemp, EE’s innovation director, added: “It really does start to highlight the importance of a stable, reliable, powerful fibre connection, to not only handle just this traffic, but that traffic and the traffic between the two environments.”

The outcome was considered a success by all parties.

Cambridge City Airport, Marshall, full fibe broadband real-time demo (54163430)
Cambridge City Airport, Marshall, full fibe broadband real-time demo (54163430)

Kevan Craske, airport director Cambridge City Airport, said: “The whole airport team were incredibly enthusiastic to host EE and their advertising agency, Saatchi and Saatchi, to capture this dramatic new campaign. I am immensely proud of our team of aviation professionals who put in a lot of work behind the scenes to provide a perfect platform for our customer and to ensure the campaign was a success.”

Cambridge City Airport has invested in significant environmental improvements including Europe’s largest engine ground running enclosure to reduce noise from engine testing, and housing Europe’s largest and most environmentally friendly aircraft paint shops capable of housing a Boeing 747. The result is a reduction of CO2 emissions from 2,100 tonnes to just over 1,000 tonnes a year.



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