Continued convergence in communications technology gives new options
You know you need to upgrade your hotel’s Wi-Fi services. But note, times are changing. While the demand for Wi-Fi remains high, guests are also placing much more demand on cellular services. That has not been an area of concern before for many hoteliers who have relied on operator provided signals to meet demand. But did you know that more than 80% of cellular use is now indoors?
With high-volume data plans, many guests are shifting the bulk of their data usage to cellular networks. And they are certainly noticing weak spots in coverage in your facility. Can they work remotely by the pool, fine-tune a cloud-based presentation from a meeting room or upload a day’s worth of photos from their guest room? Or what about participating in a social media poll in a full conference room, posting a selfie and sharing photos during a banquet or receiving an important call while in the elevator? Right.
Cellular networks have limitations in buildings, limitations that can be addressed successfully by hoteliers if they plan for it. Cellular coverage in your hotel doesn’t need to be a potential issue like it is for many, it can be your competitive advantage – even something worth bragging about.
So what does it take and is it going to break the bank?
It could ‘break the bank’ but it doesn’t need to. Here’s how:
1. Plan ahead. Any upcoming build or renovation is an opportunity to install or upgrade cabling for both current and future services. And this includes that Wi-Fi upgrade that you’ve been meaning to perform. Many hotels already have CAT 3 or CAT 5 cabling in place and are looking to replace it with CAT6a, CAT7 or fiber optic cable to deliver more Wi-Fi bandwidth. Installing cables is disruptive to your business, no matter how you do it, so don’t take a patchwork approach. Consider all potential cabling requirements before you get started. Plan ahead.
2. Understand your cable options. Similar to Wi-Fi infrastructure, cellular infrastructure has distance limitations depending on the type of cable used. The size of your venue and your wiring requirements will help to dictate best type of cabling to use.
3. Understand your cellular needs. Guests utilize cellular services differently than Wi-Fi. Each arrives with a pre-existing service agreement with their own network operator and an expectation of quality coverage and service. When planning for cellular service be sure to check if the solution you are considering can provide a deployment that supports multiple network operators – this is not always the case.
4. Look for synergies. Consider not only a shared cable duct and pull but also the potential of shared cabling itself.
a) If you are considering or already using Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) technology for your IT infrastructure, you don’t need to rip and replace cable in order to add on a cellular solution. GPON is a point-to-multipoint network architecture which uses optical fiber and splitters to carry high-speed and high bandwidth Internet to multiple locations. An optical line terminal (OLT) provides the interface between the network’s core switch and the passive optical network. The OLT usually resides at the Internet Service Provider’s data center and contains the Ethernet data for transmission to the optical network units through optical fiber and passive splitters.
GPON technology is gaining popularity in the hotel industry for its ability to deliver triple-play services, that is: Wi-Fi, IPTV and VoIP. Advancements in the technology are now such that some hotels are utilizing GPON as an alternative to traditional copper to support their high bandwidth applications. A digital Distributed Antenna System (DAS) can also be deployed over GPON to add on cellular coverage. This makes it a highly efficient option for hoteliers – one cable run can support VoIP, IPTV, Wi-Fi and cellular.
b) Another shared cable option is to take a cellular first approach. Some cellular digital DAS solutions can support transparent Ethernet backhaul over the same fiber infrastructure as the cellular data. With these solutions, deploying digital DAS first can streamline your installation and still deliver all the accompanying services you need.
5. Deploy in stages. The beauty of including extra cables or switching to fiber in your upgrade plan is that, once the cables are in place, additional cellular infrastructure can be easily added incrementally later on. Radio remotes can be added to floors where more cellular coverage is needed, or to high traffic areas, such as meeting rooms and conference centers where coverage and bandwidth may be problematic.
Doing more with less has always been the goal for many businesses. Hotels are no different and many are looking to deliver more than one service with their technology implementation. Yes you can pull multiple cabling/fiber at the same time to accommodate Ethernet requirements, AND cellular, VoIP and IPTV. And you can roll out the service provision in stages as required to better manage costs and deployment risk.
Cellular coverage is now a necessity for many hotel guests and they expect to be able to freely use their mobile devices to talk, text, and search and work without interruption. One negative experience that appears on social media can immediately damage the hotel’s brand and booking rates.
So before you start implementing your Wi-Fi service upgrade, take a step back and be sure that you’re taking an all-in approach in your assessment. Implementing cellular infrastructure, such as DAS, will soon be a basic requirement for maintaining guest satisfaction and loyalty and now is the opportune time for you to put your cellular foundation in place.