WEB EXCLUSIVE: Wireless Coverage In Hotels

This Web Exclusive about the use of Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) inside hospitality facilities has been provided by Robert Booth, vice president of Infrastructure for Galtronics, an Israel-based provider of high performance antennas that has its U.S. headquarters in Tempe, AZ.

Improving Wireless Coverage: How Hotels Can Get a Boost with DAS Networks

For hotels, wireless communication is as essential as clean sheets and a great night’s sleep. Travelers today whether vacationing or on business expect wireless connectivity anytime and anywhere—not just in hotel rooms or specific areas on the property grounds. Further, hotel management is increasingly looking to wireless devices for locating personnel, tracking goods and supplies, and ensuring efficient communication all through the property.

This in-building DAS antenna supports the broad coverage, throughput, and high data rates driven by a growing wireless industry shift to 4G/LTE networks.

This type of wireless communication requires new insight by the facility managers to understand how to provide crucial wireless coverage. Hotels must overcome dropped calls, weak signals, and slow data speeds in order to provide effective wireless communication.

Moreover, it will be of increasing interest as wireless technology innovation continues to accelerate. Smart phones, tablets, and notebook computers, as well as social networks with photo and video sharing capability, gobble up tons of data. This bogs down networks, which frustrates customers who are used to high speed connectivity at their offices and homes, as well as other building occupants including staff and retail space owners and rental clients.

According to J.D. Power and Associates’ 2012 U.S. Wireless Network Quality Performance Study, 58% of all wireless calls are made indoors in 2012—where wireless connections can be harder to establish and maintain—compared with only 40% in 2003. The study also noted that the rapid expansion of smart phone usage has changed the ways in which wireless customers use their devices, which also impacts network quality.

How do facility managers, hospitality staff, IT teams, and hotel planners provide this type of wireless connectivity for hotel guests?

One of the answers for hotels today and those being built for tomorrow is the Distributed Antenna System, or DAS, which can support customer demand for coverage throughout the hotel property. DAS is used to enhance in-building coverage in areas where there is a large density of mobile wireless device users. The technology connects to multiple carriers and then redistributes a radio frequency, or RF, signal through fiber or copper cabling from a single base station to multiple antennas located throughout the building.

For facility managers considering DAS or upgrading wireless capabilities, the following best practices are important:

Consider aesthetics. DAS antennas can be hidden or concealed in a variety of ways so they are not obvious to the mobile user, who only knows their mobile phone connections are being made. In fact, new installation capabilities are reducing the number of antennas required; in turn reducing the hardware footprint visible to end users.

View of test location plan in the Hilton Las Vegas Convention Center hotel

Testing performed on Verizon’s LTE network at the Hilton Las Vegas Convention Center Hotel in 2011 confirmed that a single cross-polarized in-building DAS antenna featuring Multiple Input-Multiple-Output (MIMO) showed remarkable performance improvement in high speed data as compared to two spatially separated, vertically-polarized antennas. To facility managers, choosing the right antennas not only becomes imperative for the best wireless communication, but also impacts the look and maintenance needs of their facilities.

Build for scale. Wireless networks need to be able to respond to varying spikes in coverage demand—when a hotel hosts large conferences, for example. Unless the correct system is installed, the demand on the network can exceed “peak” loads for wireless communication causing dropped calls and slow data speeds. This is becoming increasingly important as the future platforms for wireless communications, such as LTE, are being introduced, and the demand for data will continue to increase dramatically. As new mobile devices capable of high speed data communication proliferate in the market, in-building wireless networks need to be ready to meet the speeds of today’s generation of wireless users.

Focus on a quality. The DAS system of yesterday is not the same one that will meet the needs of today and tomorrow. New technology is needed to take advantage of the distinct environment required to use the full potential of high speed wireless networks. Although many interested parties may participate in the ultimate system design being deployed—from the facility manager, national carriers, system integrator, installer, antenna provider, and other vendors—it’s important to select the best team that not only understands the wireless system, but does so recognizing the specific RF environment needed for high speed broadband communication.

In the end, the best wireless system is only as good as its final “link” in the network—the antenna distributing the best RF signal within the facility. Proper planning and antenna selection helps ensure the best communication now and in the future.