Tech Bytes

Feb. 8, 2004

Embrace WI-FI

Jodi Richards, Associate Editor

Des Moines International Airport joins the ranks of airports providing wireless Internet service for travelers, and is the first to install a new dual-use wireless system from Opti-Fi™ Networks, Ltd. The system offers Wi-Fi for public access, as well as a secure private network for airport operations and airport tenants. According to Bill Konkol, airport chief aviation technical systems specialist, when the airport was looking into wireless, it first determined that it wanted to own the system. From there, research on cost and implementation was done, as well as issuing of an RFP. He says the airport chose Opti-Fi because, "they had a best fit solution for us based on the criteria of our RFP." Konkol says the airport invested some $18,000 to install the wireless system, which doesn't include upgrades to its fiber optics, network, and infrastructure. "Once that's in place, the access points themselves aren't really that expensive, all you have to do is plug them into the existing infrastructure." He adds, "The additional infrastructure required to go wireless was a fraction of the cost of the infrastructure that's already there. So if you were going to start this from scratch, and you're trying to get a return on investment for a wireless solution, that's going to be a lot steeper slope, because you have all this capital investment to build on all these other infrastructures to support the wireless." The airport has a three-year agreement with Opti-Fi and expects to see a return on investment within that time. Says Konkol, the short-term contract will allow the airport to assess its needs as technology and the needs of users evolve. Under the agreement, the airport receives a percentage of the fees Opti-Fi charges users. Konkel says early numbers show usage of the Wi-Fi system to be double what the airport initially expected. Wireless users can sign up for service at Des Moines by visiting Subscriptions are available by the hour, day, or month. Opti-Fi Networks, Ltd. is a company formed by ARINC Incorporated, the founders of Airpath Wireless, Inc., and Parsons Corporation. It provides managed, shared Wi-Fi access for airports and other public venues;