Royal Meridien hotel added a new item on its menu of
guest services for obvious reasons. The idea is to attract
customers, have an edge over competitors, and push up
its bottomline. It introduced WLAN in its premises so
that its guests can have Internet access everywhere
in the hotel including the lobby, restaurants, and the
poolside. by Minu Sirsalewala
case youre wondering why Le Royal Meridien (LRM)
is mentioned in an enterprise technology magazine, it's
because LRM claims to be the first hotel in the country
to implement a WLAN. The hotel offers the WLAN facility
as a value-added service in order to provide flexible
connectivity. Since most guests at the hotel are corporate
travelers, anytime-anywhere Internet access is always
welcome. This flexibility to access the Internet from
any area of the hotel has made the service a big hit
Meridien is a global hotel chain of 144-odd luxury
and upscale hotels in 57 countries worldwide.
Le Royal Meridien (LRM) Mumbai has a total of
171 rooms with an average occupancy of around
85 percent per annum. All rooms feature fax machines,
Net connectivity, and DVD players
The need - Due to lack of traditional LAN
connectivity and restrictions on laying new
cable, LRM was looking at an alternative solution
to provide wireless Net access to its guests
in the bar, lobby, and poolside.
The solution - The hotel decided to deploy
WLAN facilities using Cisco's Aironet solutions
at strategic locations.
The benefit - LRM offers its guests PCMCIA
cards to connect their laptops, PDAs and other
devices to the Net. The guests can now access
the Internet wirelessly from anywhere within
the hotel premises.
Royal Meridienís WLAN Network
on image for larger view
The 171-room hotel initially had CAT 5 cabling in every
room and had spent around Rs 7 Lakh on its implementation.
"The problem started as CAT 5 cable became obsolete.
Our cables were laid two years ago and needed to be
extended to the pool, bar, and lobby. This was an expensive
proposition," said Pradeep Khetwal, Systems Manager,
Le Royal Meridien Mumbai.
The wired connections were limited to the business center,
guest rooms, and library since it was not possible to
place wires everywhere. Installing wall sockets hamper
the interiors and there are too many wires creating
a jumble. Besides, the guests are tied down to one place
and have no mobility at all.
"This left us with the only option, wireless. And
since the world is moving to 'anytime-anywhere connectivity'
it was a good idea to provide customers wireless connectivity,"
Before designing the network a detailed study of the
hotel premises architecture was made in order to identify
the locations from where the signal reception was the
strongest. Other factors like signal coverage, camouflage
of the access points, and cabling up to the access points
were also taken into consideration.
After rigorous evaluation of products from various WLAN
vendors the company settled for Cisco solutions. "There
were a number of reasons for selecting Cisco. Cisco
solutions are simple to deploy, compatible with all
kinds of hardware and work smoothly in any kind of heterogeneous
environment," said Khetwal.
The right mix of ingredients
LRM engaged the services of Air & Wireless who provided
design and implementation specifications. "We kept
in mind around seven concurrent users and decided on
512 Kbps bandwidth as a basic requirement," said
The hotel used Cisco Aironet 350 access points to set
up a Private Area Network. A guest is now given a PCMCIA
card, which connects directly to his laptop, to access
the WLAN. The access points are installed in strategic
locations within the premises. Each access point has
a 2.2 db antenna to receive and transmit data at 11
access points are wired to the proxy server at the backend.
The proxy server is connected to a leased line modem
through a firewall. The modem in turn is attached to
the backbone switch.
Some of the access points are mounted on poles which
are placed at the hotel entrance, the Ascot center side,
poolside, and the city side. These access points have
two 6 db antennas for wider coverage. Other access points
are placed near the guest rooms.
It took approximately three months to plan, design,
and deploy the WLAN. The initiative was kicked off in
January 2002 and was completed by March. The total cost
of the project was around Rs 9 Lakh.
"A lot of money has been spent on the interior
décor of the hotel. We could not afford to dig
up or demolish any guest area as it is difficult to
restore the same look and finish. So we made a detailed
study of the hotel's architecture and identified ways
to lay cables for the access points," said Pradeep.
"The WLAN products took a little long to be delivered.
Although we made the buying decision in a month it took
an additional month to get clearances and related permits."
"Our patrons are surprised and elated to see that
we offer WLAN facilities for Internet access. We provide
guests with a WLAN Network Interface Card (NIC) and
charge Rs 600 a day, Rs 350 for an hour, and Rs 450
for two hours. However, we do not allow the guest to
use their own NICs on our network for security reasons.
In future we plan to offer WLAN services in other Meridien
branches in the country," said Pradeep.
"Meetings and conferences are no longer limited
to the rooms and business center. A more casual environment
is available for interaction as guests can surf anywhere
in the hotel."
In future we hope to introduce a 'wireless butler'.
As soon as the guest enters the premises he can access
our site from his notebook or PDA where all his/her
registration details will be listed. The guest can check-in
online and avoid the time-consuming manual procedure,
said Khetwal. We will also provide PDAs to the
guests if they are not carrying one. The various guest
services will be listed on the screen.
Minu Sirsalewala can be reached at email@example.com