Peabody Orlando Goes Wireless: Shares Best Practices

In September 2010, The Peabody Orlando completed a $450-million expansion to the hotel and surrounding properties, making it the largest non-gaming Forbes Four-Star, AAA Four Diamond hotel in the United States. A significant part of this renovation was the extensive upgrade to the software and infrastructure that supports the wireless and cell coverage at the hotel.
Peabody Orlando ExteriorProviding consistent wireless and cellular coverage is a challenge for many hotels as they manage surges in network demand that occur as they near full occupancy or host high-traffic events. The Peabody Orlando’s plans to add more than 750 new rooms, 250,000 square-feet of extra meeting space, and a new parking structure guaranteed an increase in demand on the network and further interference from the concrete walls of these new structures.
After careful consideration, hotel management decided that the best solution was to install a distributed antenna system (DAS) to enhance wireless voice and data coverage. They wanted to offer guests a level of connectivity that exceeded their expectations today, and that would provide support for bandwidth-hungry smart phones and future services, such as 4G LTE. The hotel also needed the flexibility to support multiple carriers on the new system—something that The Peabody Orlando’s multi-carrier DAS solution provider also offered. Perhaps most importantly, a key requirement was that the DAS would not alter the look and feel of the hotel; the antennas needed to be designed to fit in concealed spaces or blend with hotel decor.
Rising to the Challenge
With guest reservations and onsite events that had been planned for months, even years in advance, The Peabody Orlando was committed to providing guests with its signature Peabody Service Excellence ® during their communication system upgrade. It was vital to minimize guest inconvenience while working tirelessly to keep operations running smoothly throughout the process.
To ensure things ran as smoothly as possible, the hotel’s management team spent several months screening vendors and planning each step of the installation process. Selected vendors included DAS provider Corning MobileAccess, the installation team at Building Network Solutions (BNS), and AT&T . After completing the selection process, the hotel management held several group meetings to review and refine the goals, as well as determine a timeline and execution strategy for different components of the project. Management wanted to engage the entire team to make sure they all had “skin in the game.”
In the end, The Peabody Orlando successfully installed the DAS over a six-week period with minimal guest interruption. The installation team worked nights and weekends. At times, they put up “Disney walls”—screens or curtains—to shield guests from the behind-the-scenes installation of DAS antennas, racks and wiring. Maintaining the hotel’s aesthetic appeal during and after the upgrade was of the utmost importance to the entire team.
Quality, Quality, Quality
Anyone can install wiring and turn on a signal. It’s picking the right partners— assembling the very best team—that determines whether or not a deployment is flawless. Given The Peabody Orlando’s time constraints and the delicate nature of the installation process, the team had to get it right the first time.
Because DAS technology is relatively new to the hospitality industry, the hotel reached out to technical leads at the Orange County Convention Center, also a Corning MobileAccess and BNS customer, to ask about their installation process—what worked and didn’t—and who The Peabody Orlando should work with. Armed with these referrals and an intensive internal screening process, management was able to assemble a team of experts that were not only familiar with DAS installation, but also intimately aware of the specific requirements and needs of the hospitality industry.
The deployment exceeded expectations. The day after the hotel’s new system went live, it flawlessly delivered 2G, 3G, and 4G LTE services to a business group from a major wireless operator. They enjoyed confirmed sustained 4G data rates of up to 25Mbps upstream and 25Mbps downstream (50Mbps total bandwidth) during their conference program. This project made The Peabody Orlando the only hotel in the state of Florida offering this kind of service at that time. In fact, they remain one of only five sites in their market to offer a multi-vendor 4G LTE DAS, even today.
Providing service above and beyond industry norms is what defines The Peabody Orlando hotel brand. The management team went to great lengths during the installation to ensure its guests were not inconvenienced. In fact, they were so successful that most did not know that the hotel was undergoing any type of system upgrade.
About the Author
Brian Seays joined The Peabody Orlando as the IT director in 2001 and was promoted to the regional IT director for Peabody Hotels in 2008. In this role, Seays is responsible for the voice and data infrastructure, primary business systems, and applications for The Peabody Orlando and shared responsibility for business systems/processes for the Peabody Hotel Group. Before leading the IT department at The Peabody, Seays served as the technology director for LBS Publications and worked in home and small business support for Dell. Seays holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Florida.
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