Westin Diplomat and Sheraton Vistana Resort Join the More than 100 Starwood Properties Having Deployed Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi Systems
HITEC CONFERENCE 2012, BALTIMORE, MD – June 25, 2012 – Ruckus Wireless™ today announced that Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc., have certified the Ruckus ZoneFlex™ Smart Wi-Fi system as one of their recommended solutions for delivering high-speed wireless access. In addition, the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa in Hollywood, FL, and the Sheraton Vistana Resort in Orlando, FL, are the latest of more than 100 Starwood properties worldwide to select and deploy Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi.
The ZoneFlex system, deployed by the Westin Diplomat and Sheraton Vistana Resort as well as numerous other properties around the globe, provides reliable, high-speed guest access throughout the hotel, as well as to support communications and productivity applications used by administrative and support staff.
According to a recent iPass survey of mobile enterprise employees around the world, 63 percent of business travelers confirmed if a hotel had wireless Internet access prior to booking. Thirty six percent noted that poor hotel Wi-Fi determined whether they would re-book that specific hotel in the future.
From Coverage to Capacity, Hotel Wi-Fi is Changing
For many hoteliers, early Wi-Fi implementations are no longer able to keep up with the flood of wireless-only devices and bandwidth-demanding applications being used by guests and staff. Gartner predicts that the number of iPads sold will reach 100 million by the end of 2012. Additionally, as many new services and hotel devices embrace IP as the preferred method of connectivity and management, the requirement for a converged wired and wireless network has quickly become a necessity.
Starwood was one of the first big brand hoteliers to offer in-room Wi-Fi access to hotel guests. Since the launch of the iPhone and other smart devices, Starwood has seen the demand for wireless capacity explode.
“Tablets and smart mobile devices are having a huge influence on bandwidth consumption,” said Mark McBeth, VP of Information Technology for Starwood North America. “Guests, now armed with two, three or even four Wi-Fi-enabled devices, have much higher expectations for connectivity. So the game has changed with Wi-Fi. It’s no longer about simply providing ubiquitous coverage; it’s about dealing with a high density of users and devices and delivering pervasive performance.”
McBeth noted that Wi-Fi provides the unique ability to stay in touch with the customer and have the customer stay in touch with Starwood whether it’s pre-stay, during stay or post stay. “The ultimate benefit of a robust Wi-Fi infrastructure is that we can leverage it to create a better and more personal relationship with our customers.”
The Impact of Mobile Internet Technology on Hotel Wi-Fi
The pervasive use of mobile Internet technology by guests and staff is driving hotels to transform their Wi-Fi networks into a reliable utility that can support high capacity demands.
Several Starwood properties, including the Westin Diplomat and the Sheraton Vistana Resort, are deploying Ruckus 802.11n indoor and outdoor access points to offer guests reliable, widespread wireless high-speed Internet connectivity, as well as to improve efficiency of ‘back-of-the-house’ services like housekeeping, engineering, and maintenance.
Beyond Wi-Fi Internet access, Starwood views Wi-Fi as an ideal tool for service optimization to improve the guest experience. Housekeeping can now use Wi-Fi with mobile applications that instruct housekeepers what guest rooms to clean next and speeds reporting of clean and ready rooms. Additionally, engineering can use Wi-Fi to report and act on trouble tickets, increasing productivity and workflow management with maintenance management systems.
Steve Hicks, IT director at the Westin Diplomat, noted that these applications are driving augmentation of wireless networks to address connectivity, reliability and capacity requirements since hotel staff must be able to access the network no matter where they are on the property grounds.
“Prior to deploying the Ruckus system, we were using cellular phones for the housekeeping application because the Wi-Fi network couldn’ support the number of devices in use,” said Hicks. “Once Ruckus was up and running, we were able to rely on Wi-Fi to power this application, which immediately saved us the $5,000 a month we were paying our cellular service provider.”
To support in-room access to 1,000 guest rooms, Hicks deployed 130 ZoneFlex 7962 and 7363 802.11n dual-band indoor APs – averaging nine rooms per AP. Additionally, the hotel is using 70 APs to cover several large meeting room and ballroom spaces located on the first few floors of the property. The entire network is centrally managed through redundant ZoneDirector 3000 wireless LAN controllers.
“Centralized Wi-Fi management with the Ruckus ZoneDirector is insanely simple yet sophisticated,” said Hicks. “It allows me to easily create unique SSIDs for groups of users, set thresholds, and perform client load balancing and band steering to fit each group’s needs, which can change as individuals’ device use changes,” said Hicks. “I can also set bandwidth limits for guests, depending on which level of access they select. And I can do all of this from one screen and in just a few seconds.”
Each Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi access point integrates a miniaturized adaptive antenna array that forms and directs Wi-Fi signals only where they are needed – constantly focusing and steering RF energy over the fastest signal path. This allows signals to be extended further and ensures higher data rates at longer ranges without any manual tuning.
“After several of our properties deployed the Ruckus system, word got out about its range, reliability and performance, so we brought it in for certification,” said McBeth. “Starwood has the highest standards for technology integration, information security, and a rigorous evaluation process that we conduct for all technologies we want to deploy in our properties. Despite all the fancy technology, with Ruckus the questions where simple: does this stuff just work, is it secure, and do we see guest satisfaction increase. And the answer was a resounding ‘yes.’ And we’ve always liked that answer.”
ABOUT STARWOOD HOTELS & RESORTS WORLDWIDE, INC.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. is one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world with 1,103 properties in nearly 100 countries and 154,000 employees at its owned and managed properties. Starwood is a fully integrated owner, operator and franchisor of hotels, resorts and residences with the following internationally renowned brands: St. Regis(R), The Luxury Collection(R), W(R), Westin(R), Le Meridien(R), Sheraton(R), Four Points(R) by Sheraton, Aloft(R), and ElementSM. The Company boasts one of the industry’s leading loyalty programs, Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), allowing members to earn and redeem points for room stays, room upgrades and flights, with no blackout dates. Starwood also owns Starwood Vacation Ownership, Inc., a premier provider of world-class vacation experiences through villa-style resorts and privileged access to Starwood brands. For more information, please visit www.starwoodhotels.com.