Free rein

The upmarket Bonnington Hotel overhauls its Wi-Fi infrastructure, replacing a slow, years-old wireless network that could hardly keep up with customer demand.

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Free rein Devaditiya says it was imperative the hotel addressed its Wi-Fi infrastructure if it was to remain competitive
By  David Ndichu Published  September 22, 2015

Hobbled by an ageing wireless infrastructure unable to cope with the demands of the modern traveller, the Bonnington Hotel & Residences Jumeirah Lakes Towers recently completed a major upgrade of its Wi-Fi network.

The 5-star establishment turned to Aruba Network’s wireless infrastructure, whose speciality hospitality wireless solutions are used in hotels the world over.

The Wi-Fi service the hotel provided to its guests prior to the Aruba implementation did not meet the standards that guests, and particularly business travellers, had come to expect from a five-star hotel, Devaditiya notes. “Faced with increasing customer dissatisfaction with the spotty Wi-Fi and sluggish speeds, it was imperative that we addressed the Wi-Fi infrastructure if the hotel was to remain competitive,” said, Dilhan Devaditiya, IT manager at the Bonnington Hotel.

At the heart of the hotel’s wireless connectivity shortcomings was a Wi-Fi infrastructure that pre-dated the opening of the hotel. With a 24Mbps leased line, the hotel theoretically offered guests a 1Mbps free connection or a 4Mbps paid-for connection. With the old Wi-Fi infrastructure however, guests struggled to realize those speeds due to the performance drop brought on by the wireless portion of the network, says Devaditiya.

Exasperating the problem was the fact that coverage was poor especially in the guest rooms as access points were located in the corridors rather than individually in each guest room. “Those rooms closer to the AP would inevitably receive better coverage than those further away, the result being lots of dead spots as well as high interference,” Devaditiya said. “The technology we were using was about seven years old and a lot has changed in Wi-Fi technology since then,” he added.

To get around situation, the hotel had taken to using small APs in the rooms, a stop-gap measure that brought its own set of problems. Because those APs required to be plugged into power sockets, and with the limited number of sockets in the rooms, guests would sometimes inadvertently unplug them. Then followedsubsequent calls to IT about loss of connectivity.

The Aruba advantage

To select the vendor to implement the solution, Devaditiya sought buy in from a decision making group that included the CEO, director of operations, group director of finance & procurement, GM and director of purchasing. In a process that took close to four months, four leading vendors (including Aruba) were invited to conduct POC testing and submit proposals.

Once the Bonnington team had agreed on moving forward with Aruba, partner Precedence deployed the Aruba Wi-Fi infrastructure in March 2015 across 11 floors of rooms, suites and public areas. The deployment included two Aruba 7210 Mobility Controllers, one of which is used purely for redundancy, 208 Aruba AP-103H Access Points, one for each room/suite, and 15 Aruba AP-205 APs for the public areas including the lobby, meeting rooms, bars and restaurants. The configuration for the controllers is fully automated, Devaditiya notes, so in case the master goes down, the system automatically switches to the standby controller and within a couple of minutes time, the APs are up and running.

The Aruba solution has the ability to support up to 500 simultaneous wireless connections with seamless connectivity across all rooms, suites and public areas, resulting in 95% improvement in coverage and 85% improvement in performance, says Devaditiya. “While the Aruba solution outperformed the competition from a technical perspective, the compact and aesthetic design also blended in nicely with the decor in the rooms, an important consideration for a five star hotel,” said Devaditiya.

Another key benefit, Devaditiya says, is that the new APs work on PoE and because of that, each room has an extra power outlet for guests to use for their own devices. “On the technical side, we do not have to worry that the AP will go down because the guest accidentally unplugs it. The PoE capability also saved us a lot in costs as we simply used existing Ethernet connections with the new APs,” Devaditiya says. Additionally, even if an AP was to go down in a guest room, IT does not need to rush in to do a replacement because the other two rooms adjacent are able to cover the room with reliable signal.

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