High-speed Internet Access

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June 01, 2003
High-speed Internet Access
Geoff Griswold

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© 2003 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

It’s a revival! No longer do some hoteliers speak of HSIA as being a required amenity of the future, but one that is required now. Unrealistic business models are gone, along with many of the companies that promoted them. Less expensive networking equipment along with technical innovation has made the technology easier to deploy and maintain.

The preferred business model for today’s HSIA installation is one where the hotel absorbs the capital costs and then pays a monthly service fee for the Internet connection (T-1, DSL, etc.) and hardware/user support. This outlay can be a one time capital investment or a capital lease.

Some faulted revenue-sharing models for being the downfall of early installations when it was unrealistic models that were the culprit. There are revenue-sharing models available today that are workable, in part because they have a low break-even point and a realistic expectation of take rates. Revenue-share models have been most effective in upscale properties enjoying a relatively high occupancy consisting of mainly business travelers.

Wired vs. Wireless
There has been much discussion as to which approach best fits the market. Wireless is generally less expensive to deploy but currently does not offer as much bandwidth as wired solutions. This may change over time as the 802.11b standard is enhanced. Wired solutions can be prohibitive in some hotels, however, others have already been rewired with CAT-5, most likely during a telephone upgrade project. Many hotels today are going with a combination of wired and wireless access.

Hotels are realizing that there are zones of connectivity throughout the property. These would include meeting rooms, guestrooms, public areas (including lobbies, restaurants and lounges), business centers and connections for administrative use. Each zone has unique requirements. The meeting rooms may be equipped with both wired Marriott, for example, is offering its Wired for Business plan at more than 180 Marriott and Renaissance hotels. The plan offers guests unlimited local, domestic long distance and HSIA for $9.95 per day.

Other Uses for Network
One benefit being realized by hotels is the use of the HSIA network for other applications besides HSIA–these include video on demand, video conferencing, security, energy management and minibar restocking. The HSIA “splash page” is serving as an entry to virtual concierge services and a marketing portal for the hotel and others.

With all the additional competitive, marketing and functional benefits of HSIA, it has now become a service that no hotel can be without.

Geoff Griswold is a hardware and wiring specialist for the Omni Group. Geoff can be reached at (888) 960-8787 or theomnigroup@mindspring.com.

A REVIVED MARKET
WIFI IS TAKING OVER THE INDUSTRY

and wireless connections, the guestrooms may have either, but not both. Wireless connections work well in public, by the pool and other hard-to-wire locations.

New Entrants
in the Market
Wireless Internet connections using WiFi (802.11b) are becoming prevalent in airports, convention centers and even coffee shops. Major cell phone carriers such as Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T are offering a subscription-based WiFi service to their millions of cell phone customers. Each company insists that these offerings are complementary to their rollout of so called 3G cell phone services, and not a replacement for them in the HSIA market.

What this means for both the hotel and the HSIA service provider is that there will be an opportunity to negotiate roaming agreements with these carriers. If a guest is a subscriber and stays in a hotel with a WiFi network and a roaming agreement, the hotel and/or the provider will earn a commission on the guest’s use of the hotel’s HSIA infrastructure.

Some argue that these types of arrangements lose control of the guest but the marketing benefits of promoting roaming partner hotels by the cell phone companies to millions of potential guests is significant. If such arrangements do, in fact, increase occupancy, then any potential lost HSIA revenue (i.e. $9.95 per day) will seem insignificant.

Pricing Packages
Some hotels have experimented with bundling high-speed Internet with other telecom services. These packages can be available to guests that participate in a loyalty program, guests that represent a preferred company or simply as the norm for offering such services.

 

VENDORS TO KNOW
ARESCOM (Fremont, Calif.) offers both wired and wireless solutions for hotels, emphasizing the use of DSL. The company was one of the first to form an alliance with a major movie distributor to offer video on demand (VoD) to its users. | Broadband Hospitality (Youngstown, Ohio) offers wired solutions as well as telecommunications expertise during the installation. | coaXmedia (Cumming, Ga.) is distributing HSIA over the coax cable infrastructure of the hotel. This is not cable modem technology, but rather Ethernet over coax. | Cintele Voice and Data Solutions (Atlanta, Ga.) provides data, voice and Internet solutions to the hospitality market. | Datanamics, Inc.’s (Las Vegas, Nev.) HSIA offerings include both wired and wireless solutions for a wide range of property types and sizes. | EthoStream (Milwaukee, Wisc.) offers both wired and wireless solutions on a 99 percent uptime basis. The company also provides a wireless (WiFi) service. | Golden Tree Communications (Irvine, Calif.) offers wired connectivity over any existing wiring as well as plug and play, VPN and wireless (WiFi) support. | Guest-Tek (Calgary, Canada) has been in the hotel HSIA market since 1996. The company offers a solution that provides wired connectivity in the guestrooms and wireless access in lobby areas. | Hotel Internet Technology’s (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) solution utilizes the electrical wiring within a building to distribute an Internet connect. While an emerging technology, it offers an alternative to wired and wireless approaches. | LodgeNet Entertainment Corporation (Sioux Falls, S.D.) is expanding its HSIA to include WiFi wireless for public areas, as well as meeting rooms and guestrooms, in addition to CAT-5 switched Ethernet, xDSL and cable modem. | Merlot Communications (Bethel, Conn.) is able to deploy HSIA over any existing wiring, from unrated (POTS) to CAT-5. | Online Networks (Tampa, Fla.) offers both wired and wireless HSIA over any existing wiring, and does not require a modem or other guest accessible equipment. | Roomlinx (Rancho Murieta, Calif.) emphasizes wireless technology in their deployment. The company cites the benefit of having complete property coverage with WiFi. | Sprint Hospitality (Kansas City, Kan.) is offering customized approaches to HSIA. Anthony Mesok of Sprint cites energy management on the same network. Sprint PCS plans a major announcement this summer regarding WiFi services. | StayOnline (Atlanta, Ga.) is a major supplier of wireless HSIA. President Antonio DeMilia said, “In regards to the hospitality market, the next level of wireless HSIA in public areas will be pervasive coverage of the entire property. ...Wireless access will no longer be limited to just the lobby or common areas but throughout every guestroom in the hotel.” | STSN (Salt Lake City, Utah) is one of the original suppliers to the industry. The company offers service over any other vendor’s hardware. | Teledex (San Jose, Calif.) is offering a packaging option called ExpressNet RediPak. For a fraction of the cost of full deployment, a hotel can activate up to 48 ports for HSIA. | Travelnet Communications (Ottawa, Canada) has concentrated mainly on wired solutions in the hotel market. Datavalet is an alliance with Bell Canada to provide HSIA to hotels in Canada. | Wayport (Austin, Texas), one of the original players in the market, has signed roaming agreements with two cell phones carriers, AT&T and Verizon. Michele DeWenter, marketing communications manager, believes that over time cell phone carriers will be major players in the HSIA (WiFi) market. | Ze-net Technologies (Richardson, Texas) has a strong background in telecommunications and offers a customized approach for each hotel. This includes the use of existing wiring as well as wireless deployment. | ZoomInn Entertainment (Scottsdale, Ariz.) offers a variety of TV-based services, including HSIA, which can be installed as a standalone or with guestroom movies.

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