Hotel-wide, high-speed Wi-Fi with latest Aruba wireless solutions
Having a wireless infrastructure built on solutions from three different vendors meant that despite his team's best efforts, Jun Vales, IT Manager, Shangri-La Hotel and Traders Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi was unable to deliver the quality of Wi-Fi that guests demanded.
"We had a complicated environment that was tedious to manage and did not perform up to our high expectation," said Vales.
An overhaul for service excellence
With Aruba, we have the performance, coverage, scalability, and security needed to exceed guests' expectations by introducing innovative solutions and services. In an industry that is defined by its ability to deliver truly memorable experiences, this is an essential competitive differentiator. Jun Vales, IT Manager, Shangri-La Hotel and Traders Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi
Traders Hotel's existing system not only suffered performance, management and stability shortcomings, it began to raise issues when guests tried to connect newer 801.11ac enabled devices onto the network.
"This was an inhibitor to the innovative new guest services we planned to launch, all of which required a stable and secure wireless connection," explained Vales.
With the previous implementation, improper planning of the cabling and Access Point (AP) positioning resulted in large dead zones which Vales and his team were keen to remedy. They were, therefore, eager to engage with a vendor that didn't just provide the best products, but also had extensive hospitality-specific solution experience.
Aruba outshines the competition
The Hotel was looking for an 802.11ac based solution that offered quality and performance at a competitive price point. Security and scalability were also key criteria as the solution would be used to support payment systems.
As per the Group's policy, Vales floated a tender and accepted proposals from four vendors. While each was globally reputed, there were clear reasons why Aruba stood out from the pack.
Unmatched support and the HPE advantage
"Aruba was already in use at the Shangri-La Dubai, and we were aware of the other high-profile hospitality chains in their customer base. Best of all, despite the strengths of technology, their team made every effort to guide us with expert knowledge and best-practices," said Vales.
One value-addition that truly set Aruba apart for Traders Hotel was that it is part of the Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) brand. This meant selecting Aruba would simplify his hotel's IT roadmap. "We had HPE core switches and were confident that when we upgraded these, we wouldn't face any integration challenges if we selected Aruba's wireless solutions," explained Vales.
Deploying the very latest Wave 2 solutions
Traders Hotel's IT team decided to utilize Aruba's latest Wave 2, AP-303H access points in its 302 guest rooms. Specifically designed for hotels, these APs can be easily deployed in multiple convenient configurations and feature a host of capabilities such as built-in Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) beacons, as well as advanced visibility and control to support future innovation.
"We are the first hotel in the UAE to utilize this cutting-edge solution and believe the investment will ensure that we have no need to upgrade for at least the next three years," said Vales.
Seamless property-wide roaming
The team also utilized 32 Aruba AP-207 APs for the corridors, 9 Aruba AP-315 access points for the guest public areas and 3 AP-275 access points for the outdoor sections of the Hotel. This network of APs ensures 100% Wi-Fi coverage of the guest areas, representing an impressive 40% improvement.
Furthermore, as each AP features Aruba's ClientMatch technology, guests can seamlessly roam through the entire premises, with their devices being automatically transitioned between APs for consistently high-performance connectivity.
Keeping it all under control
Vales was keen to ensure that his team would no longer face the management challenges they had previously endured with their Wi-Fi system. He therefore chose to utilize two Aruba 7200 series mobility controllers, one of which would be for redundancy.
A rapid deployment
What stood out to Vales during the deployment, was the ease with which Aruba's APs could be installed. Since the team decided to use the cabling infrastructure already deployed for the IPTV system, it simply meant plug-and-play installation with zero network downtime.
"The controllers permitted us to push configurations onto the APs remotely so we only needed to enter guest rooms for a very brief time. With minimal effort, and no disturbance to guests, we managed a steadily fit-out 30 rooms per day," said Vales.
Aruba's technical expertise shines through
Vales offered a specific example of how Aruba's extensive technical experience and affiliation with HPE proved to be beneficial during the deployment phase.
"While installing the Wave 2 APs, some of our core network switches started to raise errors. While this baffled the implementation partner, Aruba's team had dealt with this issue before and were quick to advise that it could be resolved by simply updating the firmware of the switches," he said.
An instant and noticeable improvement
With the new Wi-Fi infrastructure in place, patrons now enjoy seamless roaming and dedicated speeds of up to 16Mbps per device across the entire property.
Though an AP has been deployed in each room, Vales states that each one is powerful enough to extend coverage across adjoining rooms. "Signal from the corridor APs also penetrates the rooms offering us multiple levels of redundancy. And in the unlikely event that an AP fails, my team would get an instant notification through the controller," he said.
While not planned, Wi-Fi coverage even extends into the Hotel's back-office areas which Vales states is an 'unexpected but very welcome benefit' for the staff.
Helping the helpdesk
Upgrading to Wave 2 802.11ac technology allows the Wi-Fi system to support the latest smartphone, tablet and laptop devices.
This ease of connectivity and the significant improvements in coverage and performance have resulted in a noteworthy drop in helpdesk calls pertaining to issues with internet connectivity.
Ushering a new era of guest services
The Hotel has introduced many cutting-edge Wi-Fi based services. Among these are paperless guest services which streamline the check-in and check-out process and iPad based menus in the restaurants.
The Hotel has replaced its GPRS-based payment terminals with secure Wi-Fi Point of Sales (POS) systems, and now provides staff with a 'walkie talkie' app for convenient and cost-free communications within the Hotel premises.
A clear road ahead
"We have already agreed to implement AirWave for network management as that will give us granular visibility and the ability to monitor client behaviour, proactively troubleshoot and plan for capacity," said Vales.
"Beacons are another very interesting solution and we are already sharing technical details regarding this with our management. With beacons, we plan to have apps and information that drive our marketing initiatives," said Vales.
A partner for ongoing success
Vales likens Aruba's support to that of a 'family' stating that their post-implementation service has been remarkable. "Their personal and professional approach perfectly complements the market leading solutions they provide," he said.
"With Aruba, we have the performance, coverage, scalability, and security needed to exceed guests' expectations and introduce innovative solutions and services. In an industry that is defined by its ability to deliver truly memorable experiences, this is an essential competitive differentiator," Vales concluded.