News for the Hospitality Executive
Nassau Inn leverages ancient phone wiring to provide broadband
Internet services and preserve historic integrity
June 13, 2007 - Older, quaint establishments in the hospitality industry often face the delicate challenge of delivering 21st century services while retaining their unique charm. When guests of the 250-year-old Nassau Inn in Princeton, NJ, began actively requesting Internet access services in 2004, the hotelier knew it needed a solution that wouldn’t mar the building’s impeccable colonial design and atmosphere in order to maintain its historic integrity, architecture, and ambiance.
“Among the inn’s top goals were to preserve the property’s aesthetics and to minimize any impact that installing a new system would have on guests and the availability of guest rooms”, says Lori Rabon, Nassau Inn’s general manager. And, of course, a cost-effective solution was in order.
A non-invasive approach that made use of standard Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) technology and the inn’s existing phone wiring—much of which constituted very old, cloth-wrapped non-twisted copper—turned out to be the answer.
Exploring the Alternatives
The Nassau Inn called in specialists from ITG Networks, a Wexford, PA- based integrator focused largely on designing, installing, and supporting visitor-based networks. The integrator examined pulling new Category 5 cabling to deliver Ethernet services to each guest room.
“But some of the conduits would have been visible, and that wasn’t acceptable,” says Rabon.
Initially, using all wireless equipment also seemed to be a good option. However, to serve the guest rooms, individual 802.11 access points mounted on ceilings in the hotel corridors would have had to be cabled with Category 5 wiring to the hotel’s Ethernet switch in the basement. This situation would cause similar conduit concerns and potential disruptions to guests.
Some 802.11-based Wi-Fi wireless access points were installed in common areas such as the business center and meeting rooms. For in-room access, ITG’s strategy was to provide DSL-based broadband access by piggybacking on existing phone lines. This alternative avoided having to install Category 5 cabling throughout the hotel, saved the inn about 50% on installation costs, and provided a simple migration path to wireless networking.
Choosing a DSL Solution
ITG had to test a variety of vendors’ DSL equipment over the inn’s fragile phone wiring to see if it was possible to reliably deploy broadband services using the existing copper infrastructure. Zhone Technologies’ DSL modems and DSL access multiplexers (DSLAMs) were able to perform consistently at multimegabit speeds over the untwisted, cloth-wrapped phone line without interfering with voice signals, says Mike Tibbens, ITG vice president of engineering, who conducted the tests.
“Other systems wouldn’t push data over those wires,” he says.
Leveraging the existing infrastructure meant that the project cost about half of what it would have to post-wire the property and shaved about two-thirds off of the installation time, says John Spirnak, ITG vice president of sales. “The total install took us just five business days. Post-wiring would have taken us three weeks,” he says.
Notes Rabon: “We were relieved that the installation process was quick and barely noticeable to our guests, with no construction noise or debris. And the guest rooms had no days when they were out of commission not generating revenue.”
ITG technicians spent just 10 to 15 minutes in each guest room installing and testing the Zhone 6211 Asymmetric DSL (ADSL) modems once Zhone BS4800 DSLAMs had been installed in the property’s main distribution frame (MDF). In guest rooms, the modems were strapped out of sight for both aesthetics and device protection, and a small Ethernet desk hub provides a simple and unassuming interface to the guest.
DSLAMs, Modems, and Associated Equipment
It has been about 2.5 years since the installation occurred, and the DSLAMs are intact and have required no maintenance, incurring no maintenance charges, says Spirnak.
There hasn’t been a single hiccup with the Zhone equipment, Spirnak notes, but from an interoperability standpoint, “If they wanted to, Nassau Inn could go to any electronics store tomorrow and buy modems that would work with the Zhone DSLAMs. However, the Zhone modems offer carrier-class features and reliability, and I like the way they package a complete hospitality solutions kit.”
24-by-7 Service and Support
ITG also provides ongoing help desk and technical support to guests, who can call a toll-free hotline directly from their rooms.
Nassau Inn pays a small monthly fee to ITG to function as its technical support staff, rather than having to acquire that expertise in-house. A management gateway that connects to the Zhone DSLAM monitors the DSL links and reports their status to technicians in the ITG network operations center (NOC).
“We can see right away if a certain room is down and troubleshoot and fix it remotely,” says Spirnak.
Payback Less than a Year
Nassau Inn charges $10.95 per day for Internet access use. Within the first three months of installation, more than 800 guests signed up for the service, with steady increases for the following three quarters. Guest service fees paid for the system in less than a year.
Foundation for Wireless Overlay
Interestingly, Nassau Inn got the best of both wired and wireless worlds when it installed the Zhone equipment. The inn can simply unplug some of the Zhone 6211 modems and replace them with Zhone 6218s, which support both Ethernet-over-DSL and Wi-Fi access point connections in a single device.
For Wi-Fi networking, a wireless modem does not need to be installed in every guest room, as the wireless capabilities of a single Zhone 6218 can reach as many as six guest rooms.
To deliver 21st-century communications capabilities throughout its historic, colonial-style property, Nassau Inn used the phone-wiring infrastructure it already had in place to make the transition to data services and position itself for wireless access options in the future. The inn was able to squeeze additional functionality out of ancient, cloth-wrapped phone wiring because Zhone Technologies’ DSL equipment was high-performing enough to push data through the old infrastructure. Without the solution, the hotelier would have had to post-wire its property with Category 5 cabling throughout, causing disruptions to guests and downtime where rooms could not have been occupied and revenue would have been lost.
For the complete copy of this case study, and information on Zhone Technologies hospitality internet, voice, video and data solutions, http://www.zhone.com/go/022/promos/hospitality/?src=ho0607
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