The high-speed hotel

4 Dec 2002

For many business travellers, internet access away from the office is fast becoming a priority. Hotels are an obvious choice of location where someone can connect while away from the office.

Unfortunately, it is still the case that the quality and price of internet access in hotels varies dramatically. In some instances, the best-case scenario for a business traveller is connecting via a mobile phone with a GPRS or HSCSD (high speed circuit switched data) connection. The prices paid for a mobile connection can sometimes be a lot lower than what some hotels charge for dial-up access.

For most business travellers, the ideal solution is a broadband, always-on connection and several hotels recently have begun implementing such a solution.

Only last week, we heard about O2 and Eircom trialling wireless LANs (local area networks) in numerous public locations, including hotels.

One hotel that has gone down the broadband route is the Stillorgan Park Hotel in Dublin. Situated on the Stillorgan dual carriageway, the four-star hotel has 125 rooms and conference and banqueting facilities catering for up to 600 people. With its proximity to the city centre and other key business areas such as the Sandyford industrial estate, much of its clientele comes from the corporate and conference sector.

Beforehand, the hotel had a centralised ISDN station in its business centre. In the rooms, guests had the option of using a conventional dial-up connection. Manager Ronan Doran already had category five cabling in place throughout the hotel in anticipation of an eventual upgrade to its telecoms system.

The hotel opted for an Eircom I-stream ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) installation. “It was the one that hit the mark in terms of value for money,” said Doran. MoreSoft Computers, a specialist full-service solutions partner, installed the service.

According to Jeremy Seligman, corporate business development manager at MoreSoft Computers, the company offers Eircom, Esat BT and Leap Wireless broadband solutions. “We believe that offering three services provides a better choice for our customers. In addition to this, each operator covers different areas at the moment, so in some cases the choice is determined by geographical location,” said Seligman.

According to Doran, installation was relatively painless and was completed in one day. “In the hotel it was simply a matter of installing switches in various locations and the whole thing was very easy to get up and running,” he said.

Unlike other hotels, the Stillorgan Park is not charging for the service. “We are offering it as a complimentary service and hoping that our payback will be an increased occupancy rate and customer loyalty. Since ADSL is a flat-rate service, it is fairly easy to implement this. At €169 a month for 125 rooms, it works out as a few of cents per day for each room. A little bottle of shampoo will cost me the same, so why not provide internet connectivity for free?” he explained.

Doran has plenty to say on the subject of hotel telecommunications. “Historically, hotels have charged quite a lot for telecoms facilities. However, moving forward I think this may have to change to a value-added situation. We are a four-star hotel and our room rate justifies our offering this level of service for customers,” he said.

As an Eircom solutions partner, MoreSoft Computers installed the Eircom service. Eircom’s involvement with the project was limited to line testing and the ordering of the actual line.

According to Seligman, MoreSoft Computer’s installation also included linking the existing staff network to the ADSL service. A separate IP (internet protocol) range is in place for clients of the hotel, keeping the hotel network apart from client users. “The other thing that ADSL allows for is that with the firewalls in place, it allows for clients to have VPN [virtual private network] access. This means that they can log onto their corporate network from a remote location,” he said.

Seligman says that ADSL access is a growing area of interest for hotels. MoreSoft Computers is already in negotiations with two other hotels. It also plans to hold a seminar next month, on 6-7 December, for hotels on the topic that will also examine the issue of VOIP (voice over internet protocol) telephony.

Pictured: Darren Donelly, managing director of MoreSoft Computers and Ronan Doran, general manager of Stillorgan Park Hotel

By Dick O’Brien