Unless you’ve been distracted playing Angry Birds, it should come as no surprise that wireless technology is the new communications cornerstone of our highly mobile society. It has also grown to be the bane of IT’s existence. Nowhere is that fact more pronounced than in the hospitality industry where guests’ bandwidth-hungry devices can cripple network capacity quicker than you can say trouble ticket.
Not since the viral explosion of the Internet have we seen a technology revolution like the one being driven today by wireless-enabled devices and cloud-based applications. And that trend, which shows no sign of waning, is especially acute for the hospitality industry because guests demand access to the same wireless devices they use daily in their homes and offices. A business traveler needs wireless bandwidth for VPN access, smartphone use and later, after the work is done for the day, for access to Skype (News - Alert) to say goodnight to family at home, followed perhaps by streaming Netflix on a laptop computer – all services hanging off your hotel’s data infrastructure.
In addition, more and more hotels are relying on conventions and large group events to increase their revenue. These events often require an expanded Internet pipe to accommodate both the booth presentations as well as the large influx of guests who are also high bandwidth users.
And let’s not forget leisure travelers – a family of four can place an even greater strain on a hotel’s available bandwidth, especially when you consider that the family may need simultaneous wireless access for the children’s Xbox, multiple smartphones and laptops used to upload vacation photos and videos to Facebook (News - Alert).
To stay ahead of these growing demands from guests’ wireless devices, hotel IT directors traditionally increased bandwidth through local telephone or cable companies, adding capacity in expensive T1 increments – a method that’s hard on the budget and not easy to deploy quickly.
Rather than using traditional technology and networks to respond to these challenges, many within the hospitality industry are seeking alternate ways to solve the bandwidth congestion problem, especially for incremental, short-term scalability to support conventions and other events. Innovative hospitality companies are increasingly deploying fixed wireless Internet access services because they are vastly more scalable, faster to install and far more affordable than wireline solutions. And, because fixed wireless service delivers a true diverse path from the wired infrastructure for connecting to the Internet, and is immune to cable cuts and flooding, hotels and their convention centers enjoy a level of business continuity that cannot be provided with just wireline services.
Time and money are the common reasons given by hotels for switching to fixed wireless Internet access. For example, the Extended Stay Hotels chain uses fixed wireless data connections at several of its properties because it gets six times the bandwidth for about the same cost as a couple of T1 lines. Extended Stay Hotels also avoids additional local loop fees because data is transmitted directly via the last mile, fixed wireless network, which bypasses local phone and cable infrastructure.
Prior to installing fixed wireless, Extended Stay Hotels locations utilized a single, dynamic T1 line for both voice and data services for the entire property, which included bandwidth for both guests and hotel office staff. As guest demand for bandwidth continued to grow, Extended Stay Hotels decided to dedicate the T1 line for use only by office staff and planned to explore new options to provide wireless access to guests. After comparing costs, Extended Stay Hotels chose fixed wireless from Airband because, for approximately the same cost as two T1s, they received 9MB of fixed wireless bandwidth for hotel guests.
Extended Stay Hotels also chose fixed wireless over traditional wireline services because it is committed to respond quickly to guests’ bandwidth needs. Typically, fixed wireless connections can be installed in less than 30 days compared with 60 days or more for additional T1 circuits in urban locations. For suburban hotels or those that are not near a central business district, installing traditional wireline data access can be cost prohibitive because the service provider will charge the hotel for building the infrastructure to its location from the nearest point of presence. With fixed wireless access, the installation intervals are much shorter.
Hotels with large conference facilities can expect an influx of hundreds, if not thousands, of additional guests during large events. The traditional solution for providing temporary, additional bandwidth involves provisioning multiple T1s and making long-term changes to service contracts.
With fixed wireless technology, hotels agree to a base level of service that is scalable to an agreed-upon upper end; for example, a 20mbps circuit might be the property’s standard service, but Airband can temporarily scale the bandwidth up to 50mbps to accommodate the event. In fact, bandwidth can be scaled up to gigE speeds, if required.
This unique, scalable feature of fixed wireless was particularly helpful recently to a five-star resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., when a VIP guest had an urgent need for dedicated Internet access. Within a few hours, the resort was able to provide the VIP guest with a 10mbps dedicated circuit that was separated from guest services and back-of-house bandwidth. When the VIP no longer needed the circuit, it was turned off, and the resort returned to its normal service level.
With a fixed wireless primary connection and wired back-up circuits, hotels and their guests can expect reliable uptime, fewer service interruptions, scalable bandwidth solutions for large events and superior customer service. Hotel IT directors can have confidence that their co-workers and guests will have uninterrupted service because fixed wireless technology solutions today are designed and engineered to provide uninterrupted access even during violent weather, all with the benefits of the industry’s fastest installation times, ease of deployment and unmatched scalability.
The rapid proliferation of smart wireless devices and cloud-based applications make the future unpredictable and chaotic for planning network resources. Fixed wireless services provide the versatility and security for hotels to buffer against unplanned events and operating risks. This is why an increasing number of major hospitality brands are installing services from fixed wireless providers as their trusted high-speed data solutions.
James DaBramo is executive vice president of sales at Airband Communications (News - Alert) Inc. (www.airband.com).
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Edited by Stefania Viscusi