By Les Spielman
A Little Background
Many hoteliers have been installing telephones in their guest rooms with a little device called a “data port”. This feature allows the guest to use his or her laptop computers for access to the internet or other computers. Traditionally the guest’s computer either dialed a local telephone number or an 800 number to connect. There was very little revenue generated for the hotel.
However, the properties soon realized that these computer “connect” times were very long and were tying up the hotel’s telecommunications facilities. The connect times were long for numerous reasons, the most significant factor being the rate at which the laptop computer’s modem could handle the throughput speeds. Even if the guest’s laptop was using a 56k (bps or Bits Per Second) modem, the hotel’s PBX only allowed the information to travel at a maximum speed of 28.8k (bps). The properties had no other choice but to add additional equipment or to totally upgrade their equipment and telecommunications services at considerable additional expense, with very little return on their investment.
A Little Math
Here comes the boring part, but hopefully it will assist you in making the correct decisions for your property.
Bits and bytes… That’s where this all starts. “Bit” is short for BInary Digit – the smallest unit of binary measure, usually either a 0 or a 1. A “byte” consists of eight of these bits. “Data-transfer rate” is the speed at which data can be transmitted from one device to another. Among the best-known data transfer rates is the one for conventional analog modems, whose top speed is currently “56K” (actually limited by the phone companies to 53.3K, or 53,300 bits per second. Now stay with me here… There are 1,000 bits in a “kilobit.” And since a “Kilobyte” is eight times the size of a kilobit, data transfer rate measurements are seven times smaller when you convert them from “bits per second” to “bytes per second”. Still with me?
To add unneeded complexity, both Microsoft and Netscape adopted the non-standard “Kilobyte per second” measurement (KB/sec). A Kilobyte is 1,024 bytes and it is most often used to measure data storage, not network data-transfer rates. Now you have enough information to make this leap: 28.8-kbps equals about 3.5 KB/sec. while 53.3-kbps is roughly 6.5 KB/sec.
When downloading files, we now have enough information to measure line speed. Here is an actual example: I recently downloaded a 4.6 MB file from the Internet. The site informed me that it would take one hour and 11 minutes to download the file using a 56K modem. However, my actual time was under four minutes. That’s because we have a DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) provided through our local exchange carrier (LEC). They are able to take an ordinary telephone line and split it into a data line and a voice line. So while a guest is talking on a regular telephone line, his laptop computer could be connected to the Internet at the same time. In many instances this can be accomplished without any additional wiring to that room. One of the great features of DSL is that it is “always on”, there are no per minute charges.
Why Am I Reading This Boring Stuff?
Very simple …. All of this new technology gives the hospitality industry a fantastic new avenue for increasing revenue through these new services while also significantly increasing your occupancy rate. So read on and keep thinking about your ADR!
So Is This All I Need To Know?
Unfortunately this answer is no. There are several other technologies available that you should know about. As a token of good will we will ask and answer the questions about these technologies!
What is the difference between DSL and cable modems? DSL provides a dedicated service over a single telephone line; cable modems offer service over a shared media. While cable modems have greater downstream bandwidth capabilities (up to 30 Mbps), that bandwidth is shared among all users on a line and will therefore vary, perhaps dramatically, as more users in a neighborhood get online at the same time. Cable modem upstream traffic will, in many cases be slower than DSL, either because the particular cable modem is inherently slower or because of speed rate reductions caused by contention for upstream bandwidth slots.
What is the difference between DSL and ISDN? ISDN and regular modems are technologies that offer the ability for customers to dial many different locations for Internet access or other online services. With DSL services, the connection is a permanent connection to the Internet Service Provider (ISP). ISDN and analog modem customers who only need to connect to the Internet from one location will want to switch to DSL in order to take advantage of the benefits of higher speeds and an “always on” connection. The greatest advantage that DSL has over ISDN is that DSL has no usage fees. DSL is billed on a flat rate basis like your local telephone service.
The direct relationship between bandwidth and cost (as bandwidth increases, so does cost) is not likely to change in the near future. Most carriers and ISP’s that lease bandwidth do so by contracting for the smallest bundle necessary to cover traffic and quality of service.
Besides having your LEC supply your property with DSL service there are various other ways of supplying your guests with high-speed internet access.
Here are just a few:
Wireless Internet has arrived! Wireless internet providers are rapidly deploying their services throughout the country. This means that you DO NOT have to order additional wired services from your LEC. The service comes directly to your property from an antenna placed on your rooftop. The service is just as fast as hard wired DSL services. However, the wireless transmission speeds are equal in both directions. Both IP providers will charge monthly fees, but the wireless fees are usually substantially lower. The wireless providers can easily and efficiently increase the “bandwidth” on demand instantly, while with LEC provided services, as the demand increases, additional copper telephone lines must be ordered and installed. The effective range of wireless DSL is 25 miles from the service providers transmission point. However, the effective throughput speeds can decrease by 5 to 10% when heavy rain or hail is present. Further, the distances are hampered by mountainous terrain and in some instances by trees.
Let’s Go Fishing
Access to the Internet is also measured by two unique terms: “upstream” and “downstream”. Upstream is the term applied for the TRANSMISSION of data FROM the user’s computer to the ISP’s equipment. Conversely, “downstream” is the speed at which data is transmitted from the ISP’s equipment TO the users computer.
The typical speeds at which hard wired DSL connections travel at are:
Up to l.544Mbps downstream with 128Kbps upstream
Up to 6Mbps downstream with 384Kbps upstream
With wireless DSL providers the upstream and downstream speeds are equal with speeds up to 10Mbps.
All Of This Is Very Confusing. How Would It Work In My Property?
The following is a typical hotel’s wiring diagram utilizing TUT SYSTEMS hospitality product. Notice that the system utilizes the hotel’s existing telephone wiring scheme. There is no need to add any additional wire, break any walls, or add any additional telephone closets. It does not matter which method is used to deliver the DSL signal to the property. The property can choose to wire all of the rooms or just a floor or even have a checkerboard setup. There is no need for your IT personnel to configure the guest’s computer! Most guests already have the laptop’s connection device with them. Billing the guest is automatic.
Please note: there are other systems available, we are not recommending just one solution!
Why, you ask, should I even care about this? The reason: Most business travelers today are accustomed to very fast T-1 access lines in their offices which are always on and operate up to 50 times faster than a typical dialup modem. While a second phone jack does enable simultaneous use of the phone and the Internet it is not nearly sufficient, as the maximum speeds that the guest can connect at is 28.8 Kbps. An executive traveling to deliver a presentation will have limited patience for a slow dial-up connection when it becomes necessary to download a few updated slides from the home office at the last minute. Such bandwidth-intensive tasks can easily overwhelm even the fastest dial-up link. Even reading his email can be a very long tedious experience. Broadband connections enable users to access corporate databases, download large multimedia presentations, participate in real-time video conferencing and access the Web at a fraction of the time it would take using a modem.
Any hotel that intends to successfully compete in the hospitality market must offer broadband access to it’s guests. Whether you do or don’t offer broadband access, rest assured that your competitors down the street WILL be offering it very, very shortly, if not already! The use of high speed Internet access in your property WILL increase your ADR as well as your occupancy rate… And that’s the truth!