BT Nabs a Significant Air Traffic Control Deal

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The accord encompasses the consolidation and modernization of NATS’s critical data infrastructure across its various sites. These locations encompass two significant air traffic control (ATC) facilities—one situated in Prestwick, Scotland, and the other in Swanwick near London. Together, these facilities handle an average of over 7,500 flights daily and oversee a vast expanse of airspace spanning England, Scotland, Wales, and the North Atlantic. Additionally, NATS houses a corporate and technical center, which encompasses a college and training facility, in Whiteley in the southern part of England.

In addition to its own operations, NATS provides air traffic control services to 15 UK control towers, with an additional two located in Gibraltar and Hong Kong. The scope of its clientele extends beyond airports and airlines to encompass government and military entities. NATS boasts a workforce of 4,227 individuals, including 1,652 air traffic controllers and 780 engineers.

NATS’s ownership structure comprises several significant stakeholders. The UK government holds the largest single share, representing 49% and including a golden share. Following suit, a consortium comprised of airlines, a pension fund, and the Pension Protection Fund holds 42%.

Given its extensive operations and the weight of its responsibilities, NATS’s choice of BT for its modernization program is indeed a substantial decision. Beyond network enhancement, BT will develop and implement fortified cybersecurity capabilities for NATS, including a central coordination point for bolstering ‘cyber resilience.’

Andy Rowe, BT’s Director of Central Government, emphasized, “Secure, high-bandwidth connectivity is essential in keeping the UK’s air traffic moving in the future – so after many years of building world-class networks and cyber security for providers of critical national infrastructure, we are looking forward to delivering this now for NATS.”

He added, “Under the partnership we will be responsible for both network provision and cyber security within the NATS strategic supplier ecosystem, and will be embarking on consolidating and modernising the entire network to build a world-class digital infrastructure that is fit for the future of air traffic management.”

In response to mounting industry pressures to enhance safety, optimize capacity, and reduce environmental impact, NATS is actively refining its air traffic management (ATM) operations. By minimizing the time planes spend in holding patterns above airports, the company aims to decrease fuel consumption and noise pollution. Achieving this objective entails software upgrades and infrastructure enhancements. Moreover, NATS is working on strategies to safely integrate new aircraft, such as drones, into the same airspace as planes and helicopters.

Tim Bullock, Director of Supply Chain and Facilities Management at NATS, emphasized the importance of selecting industry leaders like BT to join their collaborative partner ecosystem. He expressed, “NATS is implementing a truly transformational technology programme to keep the skies safe and support our customers worldwide, so it is vital we have BT as industry leaders alongside us. I’m delighted with the partnership we have formed and look forward to working together for many years to come to deliver great solutions for our customers.”

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