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Q: Wireless for Hotel ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: Wireless for Hotel
Category: Computers > Wireless and Mobile
Asked by: jmanly-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 16 Aug 2003 21:22 PDT
Expires: 15 Sep 2003 21:22 PDT
Question ID: 245554
I have an 80 room hotel and am considering wireless internet access
for the guest rooms. Please give me suggestions on why go wireless,
how to provide this service, what to watch out for and a ballpark
price ( the property is 2 buildings each 2 stories with 40 rooms. Each
building is aprox 220 X 220, all concrete and concrete block
construction.) Can we do this ourselves?? I don't need a whole lot of
detail, just the basics so I can decide if this is feasable.

Clarification of Question by jmanly-ga on 17 Aug 2003 22:39 PDT
After Serenata's answer to my followup question, I need to clarify
this question.
1) Ignore this part of the question. I know I need High Speed Internet
for our guests. I just don't know whether to go wireless or not, but
I'll decide based on answers from the rest of the question
2) I don't know enough about how wireless works to know how to provide
service. I would expect maybe 15-20 users at a time to be max, can
this many users operate from one DSL or cable connection? I know there
would need to be several broadcast points but aprox what is the range.
3) what are reasons I may not want to consider wireless. security? or
4)Ball park price - Answer this in addition to the rest and I'll tip
5) Can we do this ourselves. We are capable of running wiring etc and
following directions. I would pay someone to design and spec out the
system. I just want to know hte degree of difficulty in setting
something like this up.

I understand that good answers take time and will tip accordingly for
a good answer(check my previous questions and you will see that I
always tip for good answers)

Request for Question Clarification by bethc-ga on 18 Aug 2003 06:38 PDT
Hi jmanly,

I read with interest your followup to this question, answered by
Serenata, and decided to take a look, as I have some
telecommunications background.

To best answer your question, I went to an expert in the field of
wireless. He has 22 years of telecom (Bell System) experience, most
recently as Chief Architect for Wireless Broadband for a large
telecommunications company. He also has an MS in Telecommunications,
so I believe that between us we can give you a thorough and qualified
answer, enabling you to make some decisions. I am also in the process
of looking for an inn to purchase, and to that end, have done
extensive business case work on inns in general, taking into
consideration their telecommunication needs.

All that being said, here are the items that we need some
clarification on:

What is the construction of the inside walls?  Are they also concrete
block, or are they drywall?

How difficult would it be to add wiring to the rooms, common areas and

How far apart are the two building? Do you have access to a conduit
between them? In other words, are they connected by their basements,
or have other common wiring? Do they have basements and/or attics?

What type of ceilings and floors does the property have?

You state the buildings are 220 X 220.  Can you tell me more about the
layout...e.g., motel style center hall, square around core etc.

What is the average room size?



Clarification of Question by jmanly-ga on 18 Aug 2003 07:48 PDT
Between the rooms the walls alternate between block and drywall. Ie.
Every other wall is block.
It would be extremely difficult to add wiring to the rooms. The public
areas would be difficult but do-able
The 2 buidings are about 80 ft apart. there is no basement, attic etc,
but I could run conduit and wiring under the parking lot if required
All ceilings and floors are poured concrete
Both buildings are courtyard style with all rooms facing inward. 
Avererage rooms size is aprox 312 sq ft. 12x26

Request for Question Clarification by bethc-ga on 18 Aug 2003 09:05 PDT
Hi jmanly,

Thanks for the information. A little more clarification on the rooms
would be helpful. When you say that all rooms face inward,
courtyard-style, what exactly do you mean?  Do the two buildings face
each other, with a courtyard between them? Or does each building have
an inner courtyard of its own?

Does each room have a door to the outside? Or is there an inner
hallway or hallways for room access?

Please be as specific as you can.



Clarification of Question by jmanly-ga on 18 Aug 2003 09:27 PDT
Each building has its own courtyard with all doors opening into the
uncovered courtyard. No rooms have doors to the "outside", only into
the courtyard. Entry to the guestrooms is by going through a gate into
the courtyard/pool area at the center of each build and then access
rooms from there
Subject: Re: Wireless for Hotel
Answered By: bethc-ga on 18 Aug 2003 12:18 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi jmanly,

As I said in my Request for Clarification, I went to an wireless
telecom expert to answer your question. We pooled our knowledge of
telecommunications and innkeeping to assess your situation.

Let me start out by pointing out some of the negatives for going
wireless. First and foremost, while wireless is becoming more popular,
it is far from ubiquitous so a certain number of your clientele will
not be able to use the network. Nearly all laptops have modem and/or
RJ45 Ethernet built in. The second thing to consider is that the range
of these systems are relatively short and you still need to power
them, which means potentially running wires. The last thing to be
concerned with is vandalism. As I’m sure you’re aware, anything that
is exposed is subject to tugging, poking and in some cases just being
ripped out. And in your case, it sounds like the only possible
installation will involve exposed base stations.

Keeping all of this in mind, wireless provides a great way to reduce
the amount of wiring that needs to be done, allows the user to move
about in the room(s), and is pretty easy to set up yourself.

The “Wi-Fi” devices operate in the Instrument and Scientific
Measurement Band (ISM) at around 2.5GHz. This is the same frequency
that most new cordless phones operate at. Propagation (the manner in
which radio moves through the environment) generally gets worse the
higher the frequency but that isn’t the real problem with Wi-Fi. The
problem with this technology is that, because it’s unlicensed, the FCC
limits the transmission power allowed for these devices, further
limiting the usable distance. I’m certain from your question that you
understand the concept of the base station versus the end points, so I
won’t bother to explain it.  Something that you should be aware of,
however,  is that the newer base station technologies allow wireless
bridging, so you may not need to cable them separately to an Ethernet
connection, thereby reducing your installation costs.

The building you describe is problematic, but not impossible. Your
type of construction will limit the distance a user can be from a base
station to between 35 and 50 feet with omni-directional antenna. I’m
sure the concrete floors and ceilings are reinforced with rebar that
is potentially grounded. This could be a problem, but as it’s only two
floors, I’m going to assume that strategic placement of the base
station on floor one will adequately cover the second story. This
means that the installation can be limited to the first floor of each
building, which will also help manage the installation costs.

From your description, the layout of the building is approximated by a
square. I have assumed from your clarifications that there are no
hallways, so the base stations will have to be put in the rooms, which
is not the best choice. An exterior installation would be problematic
because of difficulties sighting poles outside in the courtyard. On
the upside, it will be easy to power them since AC outlets are
accessible. Mounting the base stations securely under a table, or
behind an armoire to keep them out of sight would help minimize the
risk of damage or theft.

Because we have to get through concrete block and concrete surfaces,
there are no hallways to use as a waveguide and base station placement
may be random, I would not count on getting more than a 35 foot radius
from each base station. Placing units at each corner will cover
between 4 and 6 rooms (vertically and horizontally). Linear coverage
(not on a corner) will not yield such good results since you’ll have
to pass through at least one block wall and whatever else is in the
way. If you assume 4 rooms per base station, this should assure
coverage. That means you’ll need 10 base stations to cover all of the
rooms (20 for both buildings). I’m also guessing that there will be
enough leakage to cover much of the courtyard too but it will be
spotty. It’s possible that you will be able to get away with a couple
less, but I would not count on it.

Another problem you face is sharing this network between buildings. My
recommendation would be to use two DSL lines or two cable modems and
let the network provider deal with the problem. However, this will
result in two monthly fees. There are other options including point to
point Wi-Fi that you can put on the top of the buildings. Some of
these systems claim ten mile ranges (overkill for your application)
and cost several thousand dollars. Another option is to bridge the two
buildings with a conduit and some high-end Category 5 cable. Watch the
Ethernet cabling rules though. The standard warns against any legs
over about 350 feet or so. To get around this, you can use a router at
the end of the building to isolate the second one. Each base station
is a router and some have an extra Ethernet port to “daisy” chain
devices because of these limitations. These types of limits are why
geography is so important in these applications.

This link is chock full of information on Ethernet:
Ethernet: The Definitive Guide
by Charles Spurgeon

as is this website:
Ethernet Tutorial
by Jason John Schwarz

I suspect that the reason you’re going wireless is so you don’t have
to know all of this, but the reality is that the wireless portion of
these systems is to simply extend the end of a cable - not replace it.
You still have to mind the design rules.

To improve the “do it yourself” odds, try to find equipment that
offers wireless bridging or you’ll have to cable each base station to
wired Ethernet (then physical connections per building). Most of the
newer gear will do both 802.11b and the faster 802.11g. They also have
external antennas or jacks and do wireless Ethernet relaying so, with
luck, you’ll only have to hard cable one of the base stations and the
rest will act as repeaters. Try to find a unit with an extra Ethernet
jack on them so, in the probable case that the customer doesn’t have
built in wireless, they can simply plug in.  (I’m still worried about
the base stations sprouting legs, though.)

To address your request for an estimate of the cost of this project,
these base stations run around $250 apiece. This results in a hardware
cost of $2500 dollars per building. If you buy one high speed
connection per building and have the service company install it,
you’ll avoid the conduit-between-building problem and get the
connection to the “hub” room with the installation price of the
service. If not, that’s an additional expense. Note that routers and
Ethernet line drivers are cheap so the big expense here is running the
wire between the buildings. I would try wiring from an extra Ethernet
jack on the last base station and see if it works. Finally, you’ll
have to physically install the base stations, which you can do
yourself for zero cost. I’m sure that you’ll have other costs too,
like miscellaneous cables and possibly some external antennas to
improve propagation, so I would include a 30% buffer in my estimate.
If you had to cable all ten base stations, I would estimate an
additional cost of two days labor at $40 per hour ($320) per day and
$300 for cable and perhaps a repeater or two. This would add roughly
$1000 per building. Again, try the wireless bridging option first!

If I were doing this, I would buy two base stations initially and run
some tests in the building with a wi-fi equipped laptop to refine my
estimates before proceeding. Put the base stations in different spots
in the rooms and check the power levels in the rooms on either side,
above and outside. Most of these systems come with a utility for
gauging performance levels as you move around.

I believe you asked for “other things” you should be aware of with
wireless, and there are a few things you should know. Security is
always an issue. Turning on WEP (Wireless Encryption Protocol) will
slow down the network a bit, but you should make this standard. You
will need to dole out a network name and password to your guests, and
change it occasionally. This means you’ll have to do some minimal
administration. This many transmitters will probably put you in the
category of a “hot spot”, so keep the security up or you’ll have
strange people in your parking lot surfing the web on your nickel.

As far as traffic goes, today’s estimates will not be valid tomorrow
but take heart that, if you start with one line, you can always split
the network at some point. So for example, you might want to start
with one high speed line and, as you see more folks using the system
(or complaining about it), you can split the network and administrate
each building autonomously. You estimated 15 to 20 users at a time.
Most network studies I’ve done assumed a 10% concurrency figure which
would imply that maybe three users would be trying to retrieve
information at the exact same time. I don’t think this will introduce
any noticeable delays. If you get a lot of business people and they’re
using your rooms as an office, you should start out with two networks.

To sum up, don’t be afraid to do-it- yourself and experiment a little
first. I’m sure that you’ll have a few problems but nothing that you
can’t solve by tweaking things a bit. Good luck.

Should you have questions on any of the above, jmanly,  please do not
hesitate to ask for a clarification.



Search criteria:
Consultation with resident expert
jmanly-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $25.00
Thank you for your answer, well researched and well written. I think
that I will go with the wireless due to the comparative ease of
installation. In our building the less wiring I need to run the
better. In response to snsh's comment, we will be providing this
access free as a guest amenity. We will write off the cost just as we
do refrigerators, hairdryers, coffeemakers and all of the other
amenities guests desire.

Subject: Re: Wireless for Hotel
From: snsh-ga on 18 Aug 2003 14:14 PDT
Do you want to bill for internet access?  That might work if you get
business travellers.  If you get mostly tourists, I wouldn't bill.  In
order to bill, you'll need to partner with a commercial wifi service,
and they charge a lot for equipment that will be obselete in two years
anyway -- high risk.

Consumer DSL/cable costs $50/month.  Business DSL/cable costs
$100/month, but for hotel internet they charge you a provider rate of
$300/month if they think you're going to connect it to every room.

My cousins have a hotel and recently got broadband access for their
reservation system and for an internet station in their lobby.  Later
we quietly added a WAP.  It gives net access in a few rooms -- enough
for the guests who ask for it and would otherwise stay someplace else.

They keep a couple of USB adapters at the reservations desk and rent
them out for $5 to people who don't have their own hardware.  Total
hardware investment was about $400 plus I think  $100/month I forgot
the monthly fee.

This informal setup works fine for them.  But first I suggest you call
your local internet providers and ask about rates.
Subject: Re: Wireless for Hotel
From: bethc-ga on 18 Aug 2003 17:30 PDT
Hi jmanly,

Thanks so much for the kind words, rating and the generous lagniappe.
I think that wireless access will only become a more valuable amenity
in hotels and inns in the near future. You'll be ahead of the wave.

Best of luck in your project.

Subject: Re: Wireless for Hotel
From: aeb1108-ga on 29 Oct 2003 10:02 PST
This is good work and wireless is becoming a true solution for hotel

My recommendation is also wireless.  Use DSL that will work great for
the number of rooms you have.  Use a Linksys DSL/Cable Router (Model
BEFSX41) as this will have the PPoE interface you will need to log
into the DSL account.

Run Cat 5 Ethernet from the router to WAP11 access points.  Based on
your description two AP's per building will do fine.  You can also use
a power booster if necessary.  If you don't have power available at
the Access point locations you can use Power over Ethernet but this is
best left to the pros.  To test your signal strenght download
netstumbler from the Internet and use a laptop with a 802.11b card and
if the Db is over 25 for all the areas you want coverage you are good
to go.

Make sure the WAP11's all have the same channels and SSID's.  I name
the SSID's the name of the hotel so the users know who they are
getting the service from.  You call also wirelessly bridge the two
buildings using two additional WAP11's but I recommend you not do this
as we have had issues with wireless bridging.

The cost should be about $1000~$1500 for the equipment.  You can have
this professionally installed for ~$3500 and I can let you know more
on this if you are interested.

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