Cornell's Statler Hotel Checks Out New IP PBX, Wiring, Wi-Fi Technology

Getting Vertical

Cornell's Statler Hotel Checks Out New IP PBX, Wiring, Wi-Fi Technology

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  May 14, 2014

There’s a hotel in the center of campus at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., but this isn’t just any lodging facility. The Statler Hotel has a history dating back to the 1950s, when it was opened as a test bed of sorts related to Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration.

Today the 153-room facility is a full service inn, which in recent years has received a Four Diamond award from the AAA. But while its service has been award winning, the hotel’s communications infrastructure has not. As Tim Durnford, associate dean for business affairs at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University, explained, the hotel in recent years has relied on 23-year-old CAT 3 wiring that was creating bottlenecks, an old Nortel (News - Alert) switch that interfaced with the university switch, and DSL-based broadband access.

The Nortel gear was about a decade old, and was long past its official end of life date. Because the switch was no longer supported by the supplier, which had been split up and sold off in piece parts, the hotel had been relying on the gray market for parts to keep it running, Durnford said.

“So we were sitting on a ticking time bomb we believed,” he said, adding that the hotel’s

Meridian voicemail system had failed more than once.

In this day and age in which always-on communications and Wi-Fi capability have become table stakes, he continued, hotel management decided that just wouldn’t do. So, in 2013, they began to look at how they might resolve those issues.

Durnford called on Michael Raiser Associates, a technology consulting company that helps organizations create communications plans to move them into the future. MRA in turn contacted DCI Design, a telecommunications system analysis, design, planning, implementation, training, and maintenance services firm, and a certified Platinum dealer of Mitel and NEC (News - Alert) solutions, to price out some options for the hotel.

After doing some analysis, the companies identified NEC’s UNIVERGE SV8300 IP PBX (News - Alert) as the best solution to fit the bill. It met the hotel’s requirements of moving from a digital PBX to an IP PBX, providing a rich set of features, redundancy and scalability, the ability to integrate with the property management and other hotel systems in place, and support for E911 capabilities, said Jim Shea, vice president at MRA. The NEC solution was also attractive, Shea said, because it is certified to work with what Shea considers the best guest phones in the marketplace – from VTech. And it extends IP PBX capabilities to smartphone users.

The hotel’s Cat 3 wiring was replaced with three Cat 6 cables to each room first. Then came the installation of the switch, which was being installed as this story was written the last week of March.

Wi-Fi is supported at the hotel using gear from Ruckus. And that Wi-Fi will be offered to guests as a complementary service. That and the new wiring should significantly alleviate the problems of guest complaints about the DSL-enabled broadband the hotel had offered.

Durnford said the hotel was a little aggressive in forging forward with some of these new technologies, but ultimately he and his team figured they could not afford to wait any longer to embrace these solutions, as it is clear that big bandwidth needs and mobile are here to stay. Not only will these new solutions outfit the hotel to address current requirements, but they will position it for the future as well. For example, one Cat 6 wire goes to each room’s TV, so the hotel is ready and wired for IPTV (News - Alert) if and when it should choose to adopt it. The hotel is also looking at leveraging that connectivity to deliver additional in-room capabilities such as climate control, remote control of window coverings, and other smart building features. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle


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