With the communication needs of the average traveller fast evolving, the hospitality industry needs to stay on top of its game
Travelling for business? It wouldn’t be amiss to say then that you expect the hotel you’re staying at to provide you with reliable wireless coverage, be it in your room or in the hotel’s conference suite or business centre. And if you’re travelling for leisure? Well, your expectations are certainly not mitigated: you expect to be able to make and receive calls, send and receive messages and e-mails, and stream music and movies throughout the breadth of the hotel or resort property.
In the Middle East in particular, hotels and resorts are fast becoming increasingly diversified structures, housing everything from the traditional restaurants and shops, to elaborate spas, to sprawling theme parks, water parks and golf courses. Considering the area these structures cover, deploying capable wireless solutions can often prove quite challenging.
Add to this the region’s mounting tourist traffic – Dubai alone is set to draw over 25 million visitors during the Expo 2020’s six-month run in addition to the projected annual international visitor traffic of 20 million by 2020 – and it’s clear that wireless solution providers catering to the hospitality sector have their work cut out for them.
A hotel’s voice and data coverage needs are not just dictated by the size of the hotel, or the type of structures it houses, although these do play a very big part. The coverage needs are further affected by the expected density and type of guests in each of these areas.
Experienced wireless solution providers would tackle this problem of a vast infrastructure with a wide spectrum of needs by sectioning it off into separate zones. Each of the zones is then fitted with solutions tailored to the zone’s structure and usage profiles, such as the type of users and the density of users.
These solutions, however, need to be provided without marring the aesthetics of the hotel. Which means solutions such as antennas cannot be installed just about anywhere, unless they are expertly camouflaged – for instance, you could have an antenna that looks similar to a lamp, a smoke detector, or you could have it conveniently tucked away in the back of a painting.
Keep in mind, meanwhile, that the network doesn’t just have to cater to the cellular and wireless needs of the guests. The hotel staff – be it security, housekeeping, or maintenance personnel – needs to be able to communicate with each other via an in-house system, such as the push-to-talk system, to ensure back-office efficiency and that daily operations run smoothly. The network has to cater to a tailor-made CCTV system, which is mandatory with video analytics intelligence. And let’s not forget, emergency services need to be top-notch. All of these factors affect future bookings.
Monetising the network
To install such a large variety of highly capable solutions, which can support heavy voice and data traffic, hotels and resorts obviously have to make large investments, and therefore often look to monetise their wireless solutions if possible.
Another advantage of zoning off such big structures is the ability to tack on different network access protocols to different zones, also allowing for different payment terms. For example, hotels often provide Wi-Fi connection in common areas such as lobbies and restaurants for free, but can limit the bandwidth and the access time allotted to each user, while charging for Wi-Fi and wired broadband connection in rooms with guaranteed connection and better Quality of Service.
Sometimes you also need to be able to monitor usage – access to certain types of websites and usage of certain applications has to be limited. Wireless solution providers have to take these requirements into account when designing and implementing hospitality solutions.
Incidentally, the trend of monetising network coverage can take on alternative form – management can opt to commercialise their networks by providing space for advertisements, thereby keeping the network free-of-charge for users.
Customise your solution
It is important that the solutions provided be tailor-made to the property in question – that is the best way to ensure quality coverage. Distributed Antenna Systems and Small Cells are the most effective solutions to provide multi-protocol 2G, 3G, or LTE cellular coverage in most hotels, and Wi-Fi can be a cost-efficient solution to add more capacity and also help monetise the system. For small to medium size hotels that doesn’t justify base station deployment, flexible coverage solutions using multi-protocol digital repeaters and donor antenna are in order.
One of the most popular requests Comba receives is LTE upgrades for existing deployments. We support these upgrades via the small cell extension solution to overlay on top of the existing In-Buildng System. These are not just cost-efficient but they also support future expansions.
The UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have seen a rapidly mounting mobile data traffic in the last few years, and this is continuing to grow. Meanwhile, the number of large, luxury hotels and resorts in these countries is also increasing. Therefore the demand for high quality, capable hospitality solutions is at its highest in these countries.