Cork hotel rolls out IP TV


10 Feb 2006

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The Ramada Hotel in Blarney has become one of the first hotels in Ireland to install an IP TV system that supports video-on-demand services.

The hotel, which is due to open for business this month, signed a contract with Cork communications firm 2Tel to install the system.

Located at Inniscarra, two miles from Blarney, the Ramada Hotel and Suites at the Blarney Golf Resort comprises 62 rooms and 56 lodges located on the fringes of the new championship golf course, which is due to open this summer. All of the rooms have been equipped with the latest IP TV technology, which brings a crystal clear image via satellite to 20-inch flat-screen Philips TV sets in guest bedrooms.

Tom Barry, project manager at 2Tel, explains the benefits of digital television. “With IP TV, the signal is converted into a digital form and it goes through a computer network to a set-top box in guest rooms. The advantage is that you get exactly the same quality picture at every television set irrespective of the distance from the main equipment. Traditionally you needed amplifiers on the cable but that’s all eliminated with IP TV.”

Unlike traditional TV services that run over co-axial cable, IP TV uses standard CAT 5 network cable. This means that the network that delivers broadband to guest rooms – a standard requirement these days – can also be used to provide a digital TV service. The hotel saves therefore by not having to maintain two networks.

Tom Mullen, technical director of NextGen, distributor of the system, says there are other benefits to be accrued through IP TV. “Maintenance is also easier because there is only one network to maintain plus guests are not subjected to poor picture quality that often results from frayed co-ax cabling. Also, any TV can be used on the system, so customers are not tied into using proprietary hardware.”

A further advantage of IP TV is that it can support video on demand, which allows guests to pause a movie and watch the rest of it later. While the hotel has no plans to introduce such services yet, the fact that it could easily do so if required was an important factor in the decision to go down the IP TV route, says hotel general manager Tony Coveney. “Generating revenue through pay TV services is definitely an option for us in the future.”

The televisions will initially carry 16 channels, plus an extra in-house channel that will provide guests with useful information. To this end, 2Tel has created a front-end portal on the TV which fully integrates with a hotel’s front desk, allowing the hotel management to actively market services to guests in their rooms.

“Having an in-house TV channel is a huge plus from a sales perspective,” says Coveney. “It allows us to run presentations or promotional material on the television. So, for example, we’ll be using this heavily in the lead up the opening of the golf course this summer.”

By John Kennedy