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Pittsburgh International Airport Offers Free Wireless

Hoping to bring more business to its hub, Pittsburgh International now offers free wireless access in its terminals. Find out how and why.

Pittsburgh International chose free wireless, in the hope of bringing in more connecting travelers, says Tony Gialloreto, IT manager at the Allegheny Airport Authority, which runs the Pittsburgh air facility (see "The Hard Sell," page 81). Other airports were offering wireless Internet access, but most of them used a third-party service provider and charged 24-hour fees of $11 or more. Pittsburgh International took a different route, providing access through its own Enterasys Networks RoamAbout R2 network.

A traveler with an 802.11b card just powers up his or her laptop, which then goes to a default setting that picks up the wireless signal. "Once users are connected, they go to their browser," Gialloreto says. So far, he adds, the airport gets 8 Mbps to 10 Mbps out of the 11-Mbps wireless pipe, and the WLAN traffic of 1,200 to 1,800 users per month doesn't impair quality of service.

A Secure Policy

With the wireless access service in place, the airport is turning its focus to internal WLAN apps. By next year, wireless PDAs will replace the walkie-talkies that firefighters and other emergency-response workers use in the airfield. The wireless LAN will let the workers file reports from the airfield or emergency site instead of from offices equipped with wired laptops and PCs, Gialloreto says.

Pittsburgh International is also running a wireless pilot with the Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration. Although security concerns prevent Gialloreto from speaking in detail about the pilot, he admits the WLAN could come in handy for security screening, especially if the TSA grants the airport's recent request to let unticketed passengers back into the gate areas and the Airmall.

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