VAR Goes From Wired Broadband Access To A Wireless Solution
A low-priced high-speed Internet access solution with a 16-month payback earns VAR GuestLinx, LLC a $7,000 wired and wireless LAN installation at a Travelodge.
You have to love early adopters - you know, the kind of client that is ready and willing to install the latest and greatest. What's even better is when you unexpectedly meet these kinds of clients. Such was the case when VAR Tejal Patel, president/CEO of GuestLinx, LLC (Westminister, CA), met Pradip Chita, manager of the Westminister, CA, Travelodge.
Chita had mentioned to a friend that he wanted to add high-speed Internet access to his 48-room motel. He wanted this broadband access to help attract more business travelers to his hotel. The friend, coincidentally, also knew Patel and knew this type of project was GuestLinx' specialty. The two men met, and after Patel explained his GuestDSL high-speed Internet system would pay for itself in less than two years, GuestLinx won the job. "Our competitors for this job were estimating a payback of four to five years," Patel said. "Furthermore, our solution cost (approximately $5,000) one-third, if not less, of the price other resellers had quoted him."
Once Wired, Why Not Go Wireless?
The first step in the installation process was for GuestLinx' staff to conduct a site inspection of the existing phone cabling, phone room, and guest rooms. "We outsource the actual installation of the phone lines, CAT5 cable, and jacks, but our technical staff schedules and supervises this entire process," Patel said. "On average, total installation takes approximately 40 minutes per guest room. And, phone service is not interrupted during this time."
The next step of the process was to integrate the GuestDSL software into the Travelodge's property management system (PMS). In this case, the motel was using a Mitel (Kanata, Ontario) SX-50 phone system with an Inn-tel call accounting system. GuestLinx telephone technicians completed this PMS integration.
Of course, broadband Internet access is nothing new for the hospitality industry. However, wireless Internet access in this industry is rare. Patel said approximately six weeks after first meeting Chita, the topic of adding a wireless solution was discussed. Seeing the advances with wireless technologies such as 802.11b (a wireless specification providing 11 megabits of transmission speed in the 2.4 GHz [gigahertz] radio spectrum), Chita was convinced he wanted wireless connectivity in addition to the wired option.
Learn The Art Of Access Point Placement
Although GuestLinx had never installed a wireless LAN (WLAN) of this size (23,000-square-foot facility), Patel was confident his company could complete the project. "The infrastructure and technology we had in place for the wired solution helped us transition easily to the wireless solution," he said. Once completed, the entire project included the following components:
- (3) Compex (Anaheim, CA) 24-port model SXP1224WM-A Web managed switches
- a Sun Cobalt (Mountain View, CA) Qube 3 appliance server
- (7) Compex WavePort WP11 WLAN access points
- (4) Compex WavePort-WL11 PC cards
- various patch panels and standard 19-inch wall racks.
"Protecting the access points from moisture and other weather elements was the most challenging part of this installation," he explained. "The access points are designed primarily as an indoor item. But, in a couple of locations, we had to install them in some very hot attic areas of the roof." In the future, Patel stated his company is planning on designing an enclosure that can house an access point in an outdoor location such as a pool/spa deck or patio area.
A 16-Month Payback
Now, with the WLAN in place, Travelodge guests can sit in the lobby or any other area of the motel and stay connected to the Internet. Patel described the log on procedure as a two-click process - customers open their Internet browser and request access. If a guest has a regular setting on their computer for their own VPN (virtual private network), the GuestDSL system automatically discovers and routes the customer to that VPN.
Currently, approximately 5% of Travelodge guests use either the wired or wireless Internet access. At this rate, Chita estimates the system will have paid for itself in approximately 16 months. "We have had several guests stay for additional days because of the availability of this service," Chita said.
Only four hours of training for the front desk staff was needed for this project. Some of that training, done by GuestLinx, involved educating the staff on how to use high-speed Internet access as an effective selling tool for corporate or business guests. "The front desk staff is not required to have any technical knowledge about the system," Patel explained. "A member of our staff monitors the system from GuestLinx' headquarters to ensure maximum uptime." He said GuestLinx can also track usage and revenue generated by the high-speed Internet access. Additionally, Chita can view this information remotely (e.g. his home) via a username and password. The entire solution (wired and wireless) cost $7,000.