This article originally appeared in the August 2010 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY
WiFi (News - Alert) has become a must-have amenity for most hotels. ExteNet Systems Inc. has a solution that caters to that need – but without all the muss and fuss or your typical high-speed Internet installation. The company recently went live with such a system at Chicago’s Trump International Hotel and Tower. INTERNET TELEPHONY recently interviewed
Jon Davis, vice president of indoor networks at ExteNet, about the solution.
What’s cool about ExteNet’s installation at the Trump hotel in Chicago?
Davis: Anytime ExteNet Systems gets to work with an organization with that kind of caliber, that is cool. Wireless networks that go up to the 92nd floor of an American skyscraper – it is probably one of the highest indoor networks in the U.S. – that's a great project.
When a beautiful hotel is up and running, the last thing any building owner wants is a construction project that is going to interfere with the hotel's operations or with the quality of stay afforded to their guests. The beauty of ExteNet's iDuct technology is that we use the metal ductwork of a building’s heating, ventilating and air conditioning system as the waveguide for the radio signal; there's no need to put hundreds of miles of cabling into a structure when you can take advantage of its existing infrastructure. This makes for an installation that can be undetected – during deployment and afterward by hotel guests.
Is hospitality a key vertical for ExteNet?
Davis: Absolutely. The hospitality industry is responding to massive customer demand for wireless connectivity. [And hospitality] is similar to each of ExteNet's other vertical markets: health care, transportation, government and higher education. We are finding that business traveler-focused hotel operators are very proactive about getting an indoor network up and running. Think about this: During 2009, close to 120 billion photos and videos were sent from mobile phones to mobile phones – a 750 percent increase over the number of photos and videos sent during 2005. We have to expect that people who are traveling are taking advantage of mobile technologies will continue unabated. With the growing prevalence of social networking, network operators that cater to vacationers are right on the heels of savvy business-focused hotel operators.
What is your go-to-market for the hospitality space?
Davis: In hospitality, we are in the enviable position of being contacted by companies that are interested in deploying indoor networks. When we receive those inquiries, we focus on the things we do well – from design to installation and through to network operations and maintenance. ExteNet's expertise is outdoor networks as well as indoor networks. We can install traditional distributed antenna system networks indoors, and if the building has the needed infrastructure, we can install our patented iDuct network that offers savings in terms of ease of installation, time and financial savings. Finally, more and more facilities are asking us to build and operate ‘open networks’ where the capital costs are shared and access to the venue’s network is provided to multiple stakeholders; this is similar to the long-term practice of collocating different carriers’ antennas on the same macro cell sites.
What are hotels’ unique requirements?
Davis: In a few words, I would say coverage, capacity and quiet.
Hotel operators need indoor networks that provide coverage just about everyplace – in meeting rooms, on the guest floors in the furthest spot from the elevator, as well as fitness rooms and the restaurants, even in the sales and hotel operation offices. Good indoor networks – and our iDuct offering is particularly adept – provide strong attenuation of a wireless service provider’s network signal throughout an entire floor or building. Indoor dead zones are just as bothersome to mobile users as outdoor dead zones.
[As for capacity], this is the same issue that the carriers face with their outdoor, macro networks. It's not just a matter of having access to the network – it's a matter of designing the networks so that they can handle growing numbers of users. My analogy here is that a two-lane road between Chicago and Seattle will give you the ability to travel from one city to the next, but not very efficiently if you are lined up behind 50 other cars and trucks. Build an interstate between the two cities. Make sure that in the high-density population zones between the two cities you have increased capacity to handle long-haulers as well as commuters. ExteNet's distributed indoor and outdoor networks can do this for carriers' networks.
As I said earlier, hotel operators (not to mention hospital executives or college/university administrators) are not interested in a messy and loud construction process that goes on for months and months. ExteNet's indoor networks using iDuct are easily installed in a matter of a few days or a couple of weeks depending on the complexity of the building where the installation is taking place.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi