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Bandwidth on demand
Farid Faraidooni (COMMUNICATIONS LIFE) / 1 July 2012
Wireless Internet access has become an absolute necessity in the hospitality sector
More than the choice of fluffy pillows, the size of the flat-screen plasma TV, or the quality of the room-service food, it is the availability of a hotel’s high-speed Internet connection that most influences the quality of the stay for a majority of guests. In fact, online polls show that 40 per cent of hotel guests see Wi-Fi availability as a deal-breaker when choosing which hotel to stay in. Almost before unpacking, they will want to send and receive emails and attachments. Some will need to participate in a video conference, while others might choose a gaming or peer-to-peer file sharing application. Later they may opt to watch a high definition streaming video on their laptop, tablet or smartphone.
It’s clear that broadband wireless Internet access is no longer simply ‘nice to have’, but an absolute necessity in the hospitality sector. This is true for every hotel, as it is for many restaurants and neighbourhood coffee shops, where free wireless broadband is expected as a standard feature on any menu.
Bandwidth consumption is on the rise and the hospitality sector is struggling to keep up with demand. Many big name hotel chains are leading the way with technology that ensures they provide the highest quality of Internet services to guests. They have installed dedicated Internet traffic management devices that combine multiple ISP services to boost connectivity and increase overall bandwidth.
Bandwidth represents the capacity of the connection. The greater the capacity, the more likely it is that greater performance will follow. Rather than buying bigger and bigger capacity connections, the systems installed by these leading hotels allows bandwidth-hungry applications to be automatically routed through the best Internet service available, while email and non-critical web browsing traffic can be pushed across less expensive cable and DSL connections.
That is one way of ensuring better Internet experience for guests and diners. Other hospitality companies in the region, however, are looking at different options. One known as bandwidth-on-demand is proving popular as a means of boosting broadband capacity to meet with the peak periods of usage. One of the problems facing hotels is that the biggest demand for broadband capacity is between 6-9am, when everybody is waking up and checking their e-mail. There is a lull then until after 5pm, when activity ramps and broadband demand soars into the night. Restaurants and coffee shops work to slightly different demand curves, peaking at the hours of breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Bandwidth-on-demand is one solution and describes a connection in which the hotel or restaurant’s available bandwidth can be increased for short periods of time on an as-needed basis. It prevents Internet services from slowing during periods of high use. By increasing the capacity available in a burst to address a spike of usage, hotel and restaurant premises can provide the highest speed Internet access to guests — without having to commit to the expense of a bigger broadband pipe.
Currently, most bandwidth is sold on an access time basis, with little regard to the value of quality of service or quantity used. With bandwidth-on-demand, a hotel or restaurant chain would no longer buy huge amounts of bandwidth upfront. They could buy it only as their customers need it from their telco or ISP.
Demand for bandwidth in the hospitality sector is forecast to continue to grow by as much as 4.4 per cent a month for the next few years, according to one industry study. If this is true for the Middle East, then the ability to provide enough bandwidth will continue to become an ever-more important issue for hospitality chains across the region.
The writer is chief commercial officer, du. Views expressed by the author are his own and do not reflect the newspaper’s policy
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