When most guests check into a hotel, especially at a major property like the new Sheraton Baltimore Washington Airport Hotel, they assume that the TV service in their room will be there and in good working order. That's why when Dale Sennie, network engineer for the LTD Management Company, learned that the TV service in the six story hotel would not work in time for its March 2007 opening, he began searching for a solution and fast.
The search begins
Finding this television distribution system was a daunting task for Sennie, who took over construction management of the hotel in September 2006. The previous construction manager had specified only Cat 5 cabling throughout the new structure and planned a converged network with MPEG-2 streaming video from a media server to the TV sets and voice over IP service to the phones.
Although the phone service worked fine, the supplier of the media server said its new product would not be ready for implementation in time for the hotel's opening. Complicating things even more, all the ceilings and drywall were already installed, painted and wallpapered with the opening only five months away.
"I saw a big, expensive disaster coming," says Sennie. "Nobody wanted a time consuming, expensive project pulling coax to every room. I had to find a better way."
That's when Sennie turned to Bulk TV & Internet and Lynx Broadband. Bulk TV designs and installs DIRECTV and Dish Network distribution systems in hotels. The Lynx Video Network, installed by Bulk TV, delivers analog and digital TV signals over unshielded, twisted pair Category 5 cable, the only cable put in the hotel when it was built. Lynx hubs on each floor receive TV signals via RG-11 coax cable from the headend closet on the first floor. The hubs convert unbalanced coaxial signals into balanced signals that travel on Cat 5 cable to each guest room where a wallplate converter changes the signal back to coaxial before entering the TV.
A quick, cost efficient install
Installation of the satellite and Lynx equipment took less than a month. "I was very pleased," says Sennie. "I was ecstatic when I found out that I could get this done on Cat 5 cable. People told me that I would get a poor signal, interference, and other problems. But that was not the case at all. It was amazing."
The total installation costs for installing a Satellite Master Antenna Television (SMATV) system from Bulk TV, including the Lynx Video Network, was approximately $40,000, according to Sennie. "This is a fraction of what it would have cost to tear out drywall, pull coax through walls and ceilings, and then repair everything," he notes.
The SMATV system delivers DIRECTV signals via coaxial cable from a satellite dish to the headend closet. There they are re-modulated from LNB frequencies to RF frequencies and distributed on coax to a wiring closet in the middle of each floor.
The signals are then amplified, sent to Lynx hubs, converted to balanced signals, and delivered to guest rooms on Cat 5 cable. Because Lynx delivers analog RF signals, it does not use any bandwidth on the network itself. It simply uses one pair of wires within the cable.
"Although the opening was delayed a bit for other reasons, we got the TV system installed and fully operational well ahead of any guests checking into the new hotel," notes Sennie. All of the hotel's large, flat-screen LG TVs worked perfectly, offering 48 channels to its 203 guest rooms.