Sheraton Springfield Squashes its Wireless Connectivity Nightmare

Sometimes a single major business disruption is easier to mange than an elusive, but recurring, issue. As proof, the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place Hotel in Springfield, Massachusetts, has taken major renovations in stride, but constant problems with wireless network connectivity finally became too much to live with.
Essential but exasperating
The Sheraton Springfield is a large hotel and convention center, featuring 325 renovated rooms and 30,000 square feet of meeting and conference space. The mainstay of the hotel’s business is major manufacturing, insurance, and food service customers who book hundreds of rooms at the Sheraton every month. Wi-Fi access is a critical amenity for these corporate users who choose hotels based on the quality of the Wi-Fi service.
Wi-Fi access had been an amenity at the hotel for several years and was delivered using an older wireless network that served 802.11 b/g client devices. Access points were deployed on each level of the hotel and radio signals were implemented on three separate channels. However, the hotel’s signature 12-story atrium, while breathtaking, was a wireless connectivity nightmare.
In the atrium’s openness, multiple RF channels created interference. A guest on the 12th floor might be connected to an access point on the first floor and have difficulty connecting because of low signal strength. Guests using laptops in their rooms and then moving to a conference room often lost their connections. Some meeting rooms had poor connectivity, and numerous corners of the hotel lacked coverage. Worse, radio interference also occurred between the Sheraton’s network and that of a neighboring hotel, creating confusion and further degrading the guest’s Wi-Fi experience. Coverage complaints were common—and increasing.
The final straw came when the hotel implemented the Link@Sheraton, a connectivity hub with fully-wired workstations, video chat, free Internet access, newspapers, printing services, and TV. Investing $60,000 in a state-of-the-art technology hub and suffering poor Wi-Fi connectivity made absolutely no sense. To avoid losing major clients, the hotel had to do something.
In with the new
Working with Kelser Corporation, a provider of advanced corporate technology solutions, the Sheraton Springfield looked at alternatives to its current wireless network. Kelser’s expertise in solving complex computing challenges reassured the hotel that the firm would be able to help them find a stable, secure and scalable solution. Because of the older technology in the existing network, upgrading was not an option. Instead, Kelser deployed a virtualized wireless network from Meru Networks.
Advanced technology enables the entire network to operate on one channel, which eliminated coverage gaps and problems associated with channel interference. The hotel can also support any guest device that walks in the door, with Meru AP1000i access points that support 802.11 a/b/g/n protocols. The innovative access points eliminate the need for RF planning and optimize airspace for the entire hotel, including the 12-story atrium. The new network also provides fair access and guaranteed quality of service for every device. Older 802.11b client devices that tend to “hog” network bandwidth cannot do so on the new network, enabling every user to enjoy a high-quality experience.
Network speed is light-years faster. There is always a strong signal, enabling guests to move from their rooms, to a meeting room, to the restaurant with no disruption in coverage.
No complaints, no regrets
With the new network, there has not been a single complaint about Wi-Fi issues. Today’s guests download movies, stay in touch through social media, and conduct videoconferencing meetings—none of which were easily supportable before. The hotel expects to see rapid growth in demanding applications, such as video chat, and it is already prepared.
The hotel’s expertise lies in delivering an outstanding customer experience and state-of-the-art business services for corporate clients—not in wireless protocols and the radio frequency spectrum. For other businesses in which the customer experience is paramount, it is critical to choose the right wireless solution and a strong local partner to help ensure continued guest satisfaction.
The Wi-Fi network that was once a monkey on the hotel’s back is now extremely easy to live with, which is a huge relief for the hotel and for its guests.
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