Al Murooj Rotana Improves Wi-Fi Satisfaction by 15% and Introduces New Guest Services with Aruba Wireless Network Overhaul
Faced with intermittent issues such as signal drops and fluctuations, Renju Ramanadhan, Cluster Director of IT, Al Murooj Rotana and Al Bustan Rotana, Dubai knew he had to overhaul his network to meet customers’ growing expectations.
“With 900 to 1000 guests using the network on an average day, we began to see noticeable performance issues. Further, as guests increasingly utilized video and multimedia rich applications, both the speed and security of the network were brought into question,” said Ramanadhan.
A Proven Provider Backed by a Trusted Partner
To cope, the IT team attempted to upgrade the firmware of the existing wireless controller as well as to increase the number of APs. These proved to be stop-gap measures in the end as guest demands kept on rising. It was then that the team realized the entire system had to be overhauled.
“We expected and wanted a basic requirement in today’s world - a very reliable wireless infrastructure to provide stable connectivity for all our guests,” said Ramanadhan.
With Aruba technology having been deployed by other hotels of the chain, the IT team at Al Murooj Rotana was well aware of the vendor’s capabilities and strengths. This was backed by the confidence that CADD Emirates, Aruba’s Platinum partner, had the expertise to plan and execute the deployment effortlessly.
Success at Every Phase
Guest satisfaction is key for a hotel and we have seen guest satisfaction ratings, analyzed through the Rotana Guest Satisfaction Survey, grow by 15% with the new wireless network. This is crucial for us because issues with Wi-Fi were dragging down the entire hotel score.
Renju Ramanadhan, Cluster Director of IT, Al Murooj and Al Bustan Rotana, Dubai
The implementation was carried out in two phases starting with the apartment tower using one Aruba 7200 series mobility controller and 450 Access Points (APs). Impressed by the success of the deployment, the team then moved on the hotel a year and a half later.
For this, an additional controller along with 750 APs were installed. “Although we didn’t see a single instance of AP failure in the time we ran Aruba’s solution in the residential complex, we decided to invest in a second controller for redundancy. It was easy to do this as we only paid for the controller and didn’t have to purchase additional licenses,” said Ramanadhan.
The hotel selected the latest hospitality technologies, in the form of Aruba 802.11ac solutions. These were Aruba AP-205H as well as the outdoor AP-275 access points. Utilization of these APs, specifically designed for the hospitality sector, meant that the hotel could build a host of new guest services on its new wireless platform.
A rapid, trouble-free implementation
For Ramanadhan, a noteworthy highlight of the implementation was that it was carried out in just 3 months instead of the 4-5 month timeframe that was initially projected; and with no inconvenience to guests.
“This was despite the expanse of our property and its facilities, and the fact that at the time of implementation, we were at 90 to 95% occupancy,” he said. This was possible as the APs could be installed in the rooms in under 25 minutes in a plug-and-play fashion.
The task of configuring and managing the APs was then centrally managed through the controller. Also helpful was Aruba’s ability to integrate seamlessly with multi-vendor technology which results from the solutions being built on open platforms.
Delivering a Refreshing Wi-Fi Experience for Guests
Guest satisfaction, the deployment’s key criteria for success was met immediately after project completion. “Now that we have a very reliable wireless infrastructure, we have seen the guest’s complaints about Wi-Fi reduce significantly,” said Ramanadhan.
“Guest satisfaction is key for a hotel and we have seen guest satisfaction ratings, analyzed through the Rotana Guest Satisfaction Survey, grow by 15% with the new wireless system. This is crucial for us because issues with Wi-Fi were dragging down the entire hotel score,” he added.
ClientMatch enables true mobility for wireless users
The hotel now boasts 100% wireless coverage and Aruba’s ClientMatch technology ensures that guest devices are seamlessly transitioned between APs as they roam across the property.
“We have all the areas within the hotel covered, including the lifts, so guests will not lose connectivity wherever they decide to get online in the hotel,” beamed Ramanadhan.
ClientMatch has also meant that in the unlikely event of AP failure, guests will automatically be connected to another AP. With each of the APs in the rooms capable of supporting over 40 simultaneous connections, this would have no impact on performance.
Uncompromised security of wireless network
Wireless security, another key consideration for the hotel, has also been taken into account as Aruba’s solution has allowed the IT team to effortlessly segment its network. Guests use a virtual network separate from that of the staff, so security for the core network is not compromised by guest devices.
A graphical user interface allows administrators to make rapid changes in the network and its security settings when required, for example to meet the needs of meetings and conferences.
“Our business customers are often amazed to find how quickly we can accommodate their requirements when it comes to wireless connections,” stated Ramanadhan.
Aruba enables a host of innovative guest services
With the advanced wireless system foundation in place, the hotel is now building services on top. In addition to complimentary connectivity, the hotel can now offer a paid premium connection with guaranteed higher speeds.
The wireless system also serves as a platform for innovation and supports novel new services such as tablet check-ins that help shorten waiting times for guests, and iPad menus at the venue’s restaurants.
Al Murooj Rotana is also one of the few hotels running its IPTV through its APs. “We stream substantial data, voice and high resolution video through the access points, and yet the quality of service remains high,” Ramanadhan said.
More innovation on the horizon
Plans are underway to upgrade Al Murooj Rotana’s Guest Room Management System (GRMS) to utilize the wireless infrastructure. The hotel staff will also be provided with wireless handheld POS terminals in the near future.
“The AP205H access points deployed in the guest rooms come with three ports which can be used for multiple applications. When we implement GRMS, we will be able to use the same AP to connect the GRMS devices,” explained Ramanadhan.
A Clear Wireless Network Enhancement Roadmap
As an evolution of this implementation, the hotel wants to deploy the Aruba AirWave monitoring system to analyze the network and aid it’s fine-tuning in the future.
With business travelers accounting for 60% of guests, security of connections over Wi-Fi is also increasingly crucial as devices move to wireless. The hotel is therefore considering Aruba ClearPass network access control technology to further enhance security.
“Aruba is ready to automate security for BYOD and IoT. We found it very impressive that ClearPass can profile any IoT device and integrate with multi-factor authentication for stronger device and app security,” Ramanadhan said.
Aruba, a partner for long term success
“The partnership with Aruba is an important aspect of our core goal of providing treasured experiences to our guests. In the world we live in today, it’s not only about providing wireless Internet connectivity to our guests,” said Ramanadhan.
“Connectivity and efficient technology are key and with Aruba we have found a technology provider that has met and exceeded our expectations and also provides us with a clear and exciting path for the future,” he concluded.