Hotel Online  Special Report

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How Electrical Wiring in Your Walls Can Connect
Guests and Help Your Hotel Turn a Profit
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November 2003 - Hotels, like any other business today, are paying more attention than ever to their profit margins.

And while the bottom line is important, the customer satisfaction that contributes to healthy profits is also key. One means of gaining additional revenue and enhancing guest satisfaction is already right in front of you; actually it lies within your hotel’s walls. It’s your existing electrical wiring.

Powerline Communications Deliver the Internet

The concept is called Powerline Communications (PLC), a remarkable networking technology that is poised to change the way people access the Internet in commercial and multi-unit structures, and the way your hotel invests in networking technologies to provide Internet access for guests. PLC isn’t brand new; it has been in various stages of development for over a decade. What is new is the use of PLC technology to deliver the Internet in large commercial structures, including hotels and other hospitality-related buildings.

The basic concept behind PLC is the use of existing electrical wiring, present in almost all buildings today regardless of usage, to carry high-speed data communications signals. Essentially, this technology turns ordinary electrical receptacles into network access ports. A special device called a “gateway” helps distribute the Internet signal through the building’s electrical wiring. Portable PLC modems that connect to desktop or laptop computers feature an ordinary electrical plug on one end. The user gains instant Internet access by simply plugging the special modem into any electrical outlet in the room and plugging the modem’s Ethernet connection into their laptop.

Initial attempts at utilizing the electric lines for communications were focused outside the buildings over the high voltage power lines. These early attempts were unsuccessful due largely to roadblocks, such as transformers and noise interferences. The “Smart House” concept, however, focused on creating internal local networks to access and control various household services and appliances, as well as shared access to the Internet. The Home Plug Alliance, a non-profit association of manufacturers, pioneered efforts to utilize the existing electrical wiring within a residential building to transmit voice and data. This approach is currently in use on a very limited basis in private homes around the country.

An Internet Access Strategy

The greatest challenge since the development of PLC technology is the tendency for signal distortion or interference over larger distances. This is why this technology has been easier to implement in small residential buildings. Telkonet, Inc., based in Annapolis, Maryland, offers a new product that solves this signal distortion problem. The Telkonet PlugPlusInternet . system uses a patent-pending technology to transmit Internet signals inside very large commercial structures – such as hotels, office buildings, and multi-unit structures – without distortion or interference, putting practical, easy-to-use PLC solutions within reach of hotel operators and convention centers for the very first time.

These days, business travelers in particular require Internet access during the length of a hotel stay; few people today tolerate being out of reach even during travel. Convenience, flexibility, and portability are the watchwords for providing an Internet access strategy in the hospitality business today.

Fortunately, products like the Telkonet PlugPlusInternet system are built on such key benefits. And it isn’t only the hotel guest that stands to benefit.

Offering a Competitive Advantage

High-speed access to the Internet in guest rooms, meeting rooms and small convention centers is a distinct competitive advantage. Many hotels today still lack a comprehensive access strategy for their guests, so hotels that offer systems such as Telkonet’s PLC solution are ahead of the game. The service can be an instant revenue stream for hotels, which have the option of charging guests for it depending on their policies and revenue requirements. Another option is providing the access free of charge, as a value-added service to encourage guest satisfaction.

Another benefit of installing a PLC system lies with the installation process itself. Unlike the other available options, installing the Telkonet PlugPlusInternet system involves the installation of a gateway, which is coupled to the buildings electrical service panel and connected to a circuit breaker. No additional wires or cabling need to be strung through the building – a boon to older structures where damage could easily result from installation of wiring. Hotels can simply pre-equip rooms with the special PLC modems or provide them to guests at check-in. Installation can generally be accomplished in a single day for most 75 to 150-room hotels, representing a significant advantage when compared with other Internet access solutions. The best part: no disruption to the hotel’s guests or staff.

Wireless Connectivity Issues

One of PLC’s main competitors is wireless connectivity. While wireless, at first glance, looks quite useful as a connection technology for hotels, comparisons between wireless and PLC reveal striking differences. A big difference is that wireless systems are not as secure; guests using wireless connections risk having their data co-opted by others in the vicinity with wireless devices.

In addition, wireless options do involve some installation of wiring; the “wireless” part relates only to the freedom from a wire at the laptop or desktop level. In fact, wireless systems do require the installation of wires within the buildings walls to create the network infrastructure. This could be a problem for hotels where disruption could result in lost revenue, or where a historic building designation creates obstacles to installation. Also, wireless signals are also subject to inference. Metal and concrete, which make up a significant percentage of the construction mass of many hotels, tend to cause interference with wireless signals, and a subsequent degradation in connection quality for the guest.

PLC Benefits Hotels and Guests

Given these considerations, PLC systems measure up nicely compared to wireless options for use within the hospitality industry. And there is no comparison with traditional wired systems that require dedicated wiring and dedicated network ports in the walls. The balance of features and benefits offered by PLC is truly unique.

Selecting a new technology for your hotel – and in effect a new Internet access strategy – can seem a daunting process. But it doesn’t have to be. Products like Telkonet’s PlugPlusInternet solution offer an ideal balance of benefits to hotels and guests alike.

  • PLC maximizes your building’s existing infrastructure: electrical systems can now act as both power source and network port.
  • Telkonet’s system provides you with a low capital investment and an instant revenue stream.
  • Turning electrical outlets into Internet access ports is convenient for guests; anywhere in the room where there’s a receptacle, the Internet is quickly at hand.
  • Hotels realize cost savings because labor costs are minimal compared to other options.
  • Installation is quick; PLC systems can typically be installed in less than one day.
  • Because there is no need to retrofit the building for new wiring, installation is non-disruptive.
  • There are no building limitations in terms of age, especially important with historic structures.
  • The system is scalable and can support up to 256 modems per gateway; additional gateways can be installed to achieve the desired number of connection points for any hotel.
With so many benefits to hotel owners and operators, it’s clear that PLC technology has truly come of age. It has the potential to transform the old electrical wiring in your hotel’s walls into a new source of value-added service, revenue and customer satisfaction. Telkonet’s unique technology allows, for the first time, hotels to delivery distortion-free Internet service over existing infrastructure with the convenience, flexibility and portability required by today’s travellers. Understanding more about PLC will no doubt yield rewards to hotels and their guests for some time to come.

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Contact:

Telkonet, Inc. 
902-A Commerce Road 
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
866.375.6276 Toll Free 
410.897.5900 Sales Office 
www.telkonet.com

Also See: WyteStone Suites in Fredericksburg, Virginia Was Built in 1995 with Standard CAT 3 Wiring; Read How the Owner Made  this Hotel High-Speed-Ready / November 2003
Is PLC the easiest way to high-speed Internet in the guest room?  / One-on-One Audio Interview with David Powell / October 2003
Telkonet to Showcase High-Speed Internet Access Solution at HFTP Annual Conference / October 2003
Telkonet Receives First Order From Noment Networks; Delivers High-Speed Internet Access to Luxury High-Rise Apartment / Oct 2003


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