The deadly bombing at Russia’s Domodedovo airport in January that killed 36 people and injured more than 180 others once again highlighted potential security loopholes in unrestricted access zones at airports around the world.
In the ensuing panic as rescuers attempted to get inside the terminal to treat and save the wounded, it transpired that other areas of the airport had performed admirably in the face of adversity.
Among these was the airport’s TETRA network for secure private mobile communications.
As Gianni Ginsi, deputy director of SELEX Communications branch in Russia explains, the terrorist attack put the system under considerable strain and tested its reliability.
‘The communications were heavily used during the emergency, producing high peaks of traffic, and yet the system worked properly without any problems,’ he says.
The airport deployed an ELETTRA system from SELEX Communications in 2007 after the company won the contract to supply the TETRA radio system for secure radio communications back in 2005.
‘The supply consisted of one switching and control node (SCN) and four base stations (BS), each equipped with four transceivers, plus additional equipment for dispatching operators, network management and encryption managament,’ says Ginsi.
Since then, more than 1,000 handheld PUMA T3 TETRA terminals (in addition to VS2001 vehicular stations and FC2001 fixed stations) have been supplied to the airport’s users.
The idea was to provide the airport with integrated voice and data management in all areas and give them what was considered state-of-the-art security and reliability. The network uses the 450-470MHz frequency with its handhelds supporting data transmission up to 28.8Kbp/s.
Although the system is designed to grant secure mobile communications, it has open interfaces for integration in the airport data system.
Today, says Ginsi, SELEX continues to be the interface for essential customer, maintenance and technical assistance activities, acting as an advisor to the airport.
‘As a consequence of the attack and, therefore, of the growing attention to the security aspects, with the help of SELEX Communications Domodedovo airport is now investigating and studying the feasibility and timing to expand the system for implementing the so-called “disaster recovery” functionality,’ he adds.
This includes a duplication of the core equipment on the network and will provide automatic reconfiguration of this in case the main equipment becomes faulty or is damaged in some way.
Should such an expansion take place, he says this might mean the deployment of two switching and control nodes, each located in a different physical site and one working as main and the other as secondary.
‘If something occurs at the site where the main switching and control node is installed, the network will reconfigure automatically and the secondary one will become the main without losing service,’ he adds.