Leading Canadian Airport Gains Mobile Advantage

The Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport deploys Cisco Unified Wireless Network to support advanced applications and improve passenger experience.

November 23, 2009


Part of Canada's National Airport System, Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport provides air services to passengers traveling to and from Quebec City and Eastern Quebec. Offering more than 375 weekly flights to North America, South America, and Europe, the airport processes more than 1,000,000 passengers annually. To best support this traffic, the airport relies on a strong technology infrastructure.

"Our commitment to passengers first means we need the right technology in place to create the safest, most convenient, and efficient airport experience for our travelers," says Pascal Bélanger, president and COO of the Quebec City International Airport.

In preparation for Quebec City's 400th anniversary celebration in 2008, the airport rebuilt its main terminal. According to Bélanger, "The anniversary presented a great opportunity for us to implement the technological upgrades, such as IP telephony and Wi-Fi, we'd been thinking about." Years prior to the redevelopment project, Bélanger had already begun exploring how integrated communications platforms in other airports automated and enhanced passenger services. At the Quebec City International Airport, each airline had proprietary equipment and switches to communicate with headquarters. Because proprietary systems could not be moved easily, the airport had to allocate permanent space for each airline. In addition, many airlines still used manual systems to issue boarding passes. "To provide the highest quality service to our passengers, we needed to create a common-use facility functioning from one unified network solution," says Bélanger.


Quebec City International Airport created a task team to research best practices at airports around the world. "We received very impressive comments regarding Cisco," says Bélanger. After an extensive evaluation of a number of solutions, Quebec City International Airport chose Cisco. "We chose the solution that much larger airports were using because we wanted a proven and tested end-to-end network that would future-proof our investment. We have a lot of plans for new airport applications, and we knew that Cisco could provide the reliability, scalability, and performance to support our growing needs," he says.

With Hewlett-Packard as the system integrator and Cisco providing the network design, Quebec City International Airport adopted Cisco® Unified Communications and Unified Wireless Network to provide integrated data, telephony, and mobile services throughout the airport. "Now, all airlines use the same integrated wired and wireless Cisco infrastructure and voice over IP (VoIP) telephone system, enabling the airport to use each counter for a variety of airlines and maximizing efficiency," says Marc-André Bédard, network administrator at Quebec City International Airport. At a common-use counter, for instance, airline personnel simply log into the Cisco Unified Communications Manager to activate their Cisco Wireless IP phones with the correct airline telephony profile. "With the Cisco Wireless IP phones, agents remain connected regardless of where they are in the airport," says Bédard.

The Cisco Unified Wireless Network consists of 100 Cisco 802.11n access points, two 6500 Wireless Service Modules, and two Wireless Control Systems. Using the wireless network, airport staff access operational applications from anywhere in the airport. In addition, the Wi-Fi network currently provides guest access for passengers. "Business travelers are especially pleased. We provide instant Internet access, and travelers can go online to access their own VPNs easily," says Bélanger.


Cisco's service and support team made it possible for Quebec City International Airport to realize its network vision within a short timeframe. "Working with Cisco helped ensure a quick and easy deployment of the integrated network solution. We began speaking with Cisco in the summer of 2007 and were fully deployed by June 2008, in time to support the increased passenger traffic that was coming in for Quebec City's 400th anniversary," says Bélanger.

The integrated Cisco network enabled Quebec City International Airport to gain business efficiencies and provide enhanced services that give it a global competitive edge. According to Bélanger, "Cisco helps us deliver on our passenger-first vision through benefits that are both visible and invisible to the traveler." Reliable Wi-Fi, for instance, is a visible benefit. "The airport used to leak traffic to Montreal, but as travelers began to experience our new facility, complete with amenities such as free Wi-Fi, passenger satisfaction improved and traffic to Quebec City International Airport increased," he says.

An integrated Cisco wired and wireless network that supports both voice and data streamlines the passenger flow transparently. The creation of the common-use facility not only enables greater flexibility for the allocation of the airport's resources, but results in better communication, faster passenger check-in, and support for 24-hour airline operation. And as the airport continues to deploy new Wi-Fi applications, the Cisco Unified Wireless Network's role in servicing passengers continues to grow in importance. "Cisco's robust Wi-Fi environment provides constant connectivity for airlines, enabling smoother operations. Runways, for instance, can be prepared faster, reducing the need for airlines to circle around the airport. While this type of communication remains invisible to passengers, it is crucial to providing high-quality service," says Bélanger.

Next Steps

Quebec City International Airport chose to deploy Cisco 802.11n technology to help ensure the throughput and reliability needed to support the sophisticated applications that it plans to implement in the future. Every five to eight minutes, runway inspection vehicles send data on surface conditions to a security control center, which dispenses the information to all airline pilots. Today, these vehicles communicate via two-way radios, which can clog frequencies and cause delays in relaying information. "We're considering deploying Cisco outdoor mesh access points as part of the Unified Wireless Network. These access points will enable more reliable and faster communications between runway inspection vehicles and pilots, which translates into a better flight experience for our passengers," says Bélanger.

Share this article: