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Wi-fi signal & smart signage

Calcutta airport’s integrated terminal has gone Wi-fi and put up additional signage across the sprawling facility to help fliers find their way.

“Tata Docomo is providing Wi-fi facility in the terminal. The W-fi network already covers the departure area and will be available in parts of the arrival zone soon,” airport director B.P. Sharma told Metro on Monday.

The first-floor departure lounge has had a Wi-fi network since November 15 while trials are underway elsewhere. The airport has signed a three-year deal with Tata Docomo, which provides Wi-fi connectivity at Delhi’s T3.

“We have the contract to provide Wi-fi services exclusively at Calcutta airport’s domestic and international lounges. The first 30 minutes of usage is free,” said Prateek Pashine, head of SME operations at Tata Communications.

Any passenger taking a flight out of Calcutta can access Wi-fi on a mobile phone, tablet or laptop after entering the departure area.

Once the user’s gadget detects a network, he or she will be prompted to provide a mobile number or email address. “A password will be immediately provided to the user to log in. Each visit will require a new password for Wi-fi access,” an airport official said.

A user who exhausts the free quota will get a pop-up message saying that the service would now be chargeable. The surfing fee will have to be paid online.

Wi-fi allows digital devices within a particular area to connect to the Internet and, by extension, one another. For travellers on the move, especially foreign tourists, it is the ideal alternative to a high-tariff mobile phone connection with international roaming.

Many use the facility to check in by showing e-tickets on their tablets or send WhatsApp, Skype or FaceTime messages to those waiting outside airports to receive them.

Metro had highlighted the lack of Wi-fi facility in the integrated terminal through the experience of an NRI on a visit to Calcutta in October.

Mumbai has had the facility since 2007.

Some airports put restrictions on bandwidth or websites visited. Dubai International Airport and Changi International Airport in Singapore offer free Wi-fi, but airports in New York and Paris charge for it.

The Airports Authority of India had first signed a contract with state-owned BSNL for a Wi-fi network. Parts of the terminal did get Wi-fi under a pilot project, but BSNL withdrew it in May by citing technical difficulties.

Apart from Wi-fi, the new terminal has 150 additional signs to make it easier for fliers to navigate through the facility without having to ask anyone for directions. “We had received complaints from passengers about inadequate signage. There was also confusion at the boarding gates,” the airport director admitted.

In the old set-up, fliers sometimes had to walk a long way to their designated airline counters after getting off vehicles at the wrong gates.

The AAI has spent Rs 24 lakh to install new signage across the terminal to indicate washrooms, boarding gates, ATMs and other areas. The project was completed a few weeks ago, an official said.

“Signage has improved, but there should be more of them for the exit gates at the arrival lounge,” said surgical oncologist Gautam Mukhopadhyay, a frequent flier.