Hospitality services depend on constant communications for cost-effective and timely operations, and those communications are increasingly conducted through mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. In addition, many hotels are required to have wireless systems to support first responders during public safety emergencies. But back-of-the-house areas often receive poor wireless services from outside sources because modern cellular frequencies don’t easily penetrate building walls.
In this article, Zinwave Inc. discusses how hotels could deploy in-building wireless systems to support employees and first responders.
Reaching a Mobile Workforce
The hotel workforce is a mobile workforce. Bellhops, housekeepers, security, catering, and maintenance staff are always on the move, and they need to be reachable at all times. The easiest way to reach many of them is through texting or voice calls. First responders might use public safety radios and the in-house security teams may use other two-way radios or cell phones, but in any event, the hotel must provide wireless coverage for all of these options.
A Distributed Antenna System (DAS) uses a network of antennas connected to a head-end and radio source (a repeater or base station) that deliver radio frequencies to designated areas. In a typical setup, the radio source and head-end are located in the hotel’s telecommunications or IT room, while the remote units/antennas, connected via fiber or coaxial cabling, are placed in the ceiling in areas to be covered.
A DAS provides uniform wireless coverage throughout back-of-the-house areas. It can also be used to offer wireless access for guests’ mobile devices when antennas are deployed in public areas such as lobbies, restaurants, and meeting rooms. In fact, many hotels choose to cover public areas when they deploy a back-of-the-house DAS because the benefit to guests is large and the incremental cost is relatively small.
There are many DAS solutions on the market, but by reviewing a few key requirements, hotels can make an effective decision in choosing one.
Does it offer multi-operator support? While the hotel staff may be using a specific mobile operator’s service, it can expand the value of the solution by supporting all major mobile operators so it can accommodate guest traffic as well. And if it doesn't provide mobile devices to its staff, it needs to support multiple mobile operators to ensure coverage for everyone. In addition to cellular coverage, the system must also provide coverage for two-way radios and public safety radios. Some DAS products are frequency-specific, and it is a complex matter to specify and order components that support all of the needed frequencies, which range from 150 MHz to 800 MHz for public safety and two-way radio bands and from 700 MHz to 2500 MHz for cellular phone services. Therefore, it’s best to look for a DAS that supports all of these frequencies within a single system.
Will it be easy to install? The last thing a hotel wants to do is disrupt hotel operations when installing the DAS, so it’s important to look for a solution that has a minimal number of components and uses fiber transport to connect the remote antennas. Some systems use heavy coaxial cabling that requires special installation expertise, while other systems use all-fiber transport architecture. Fiber is thin and light and is much easier to pull above ceilings. In addition, the more a system is designed like a wireless LAN or other technology that’s familiar to a hotel’s technical staff (plug-and-play components and active hub architecture, for example), the easier it will be to install.
Does it have a low total cost of ownership? A DAS is an investment that must stand the test of time, so it’s important to look for solutions that have a low total cost of ownership (TCO). Every few years, cellular carriers add new frequencies to their services, and these must be accommodated as cost-effectively as possible. Some DAS products must be upgraded with additional hardware every time a new frequency is added, while other products natively support a wide range of frequencies without upgrades.
Wireless service in hotels is as important a utility as water and electricity, and a DAS delivers that service to enable operational efficiency. After all, the name of the game in a hotel is guest services, and when employees can communicate quickly and effectively, hotel services improve and guests remain happy.