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Issue of September 2002 
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Tech Update - WLAN
Wireless on the menu

Le 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

In case you’re 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 with guests.

The Company

Le 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.
Le Royal Meridienís WLAN Network

Click on image for larger view

A new menu
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," said Khetwal.

For starters
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 Khetwal.
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 Mpbs.

The 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."

Initial reactions
"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."

Future plans
“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

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