In a world dominated by
mobile phones, PDAs and laptop computers, today’s travelers place
significant value on high-tech hotel amenities such as wireless and
high-speed Internet access. To meet the demands of this new breed of
travelers, hotels around the world are installing high-speed Internet
access (HSIA) solutions that transform guest rooms into virtual
on-the-road offices. Shaner Hotel Group, an owner of 23 hotels based in the Eastern United
States, has taken this trend a step further. Shaner signed a $3 million
contract with AT&T to build a powerful next-generation network that links
its 23 properties, sets the stage for a new concept in guest services and
gives Shaner an edge in the highly competitive hospitality industry.
Shaner’s advanced capabilities spring from AT&T’s network-based Internet
Protocol Virtual Private Network (IP VPN) and Voice over IP (VoIP)
service, which converts voice signals into packets of data that travel
across the Internet. The IP VPN and VoIP service use Shaner’s HSIA system
as a foundation to support voice, data and Internet services, effectively
creating a single, converged networking platform.
The converged network eliminates the cost of maintaining multiple systems
and, at the same time, lowers phone costs by routing calls via the
Internet. Now, Shaner pays a fixed monthly price for all data and phone
services—freeing the company to design and offer bundled packages of
phone and Internet service to its guests.
This capability gives Shaner properties a decided advantage over competing
hotels that rely on traditional telephony and consequently must deal with
fluctuating costs based on usage. This volatility makes it difficult for
these hotels to offer unlimited calls to their guests for a flat fee
without presenting a significant risk to their business, which a high
volume of usage- based calls could easily cause.
“Hotels have traditionally relied on phone charges as a revenue stream,
but this revenue stream has declined significantly as guests turn to less
expensive alternatives such as cell phones,” said J.B. Griffin, chief
financial officer of Shaner. “However, we have found that
guests-especially business travelers-are incredibly apt to use bundled
packages of Internet and phone service when they stay at hotels.
“AT&T’s networking solution significantly lowers and, at the same time,
adds predictability to the costs of our voice services. It opens the door
to an incredible range of guest services,” continued Griffin.
Shaner’s hotels will use a wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) network created by
AT&T as an HSIA “umbrella” covering the entire hotel premises. Hotel
guests with wireless communication cards in their computers can simply
power on their laptops anywhere in the hotel—in meeting rooms, in the
lounge, or even poolside—and enjoy free high-speed Internet access.
Additionally, Shaner will equip many hotel guest rooms with wired HSIA,
giving guests the highest level of flexibility. As Shaner implements
high-tech guest amenities and develops technology to advance its hotel
management capabilities, the VoIP infrastructure offers a broad range of
Finally, Shaner’s networking platform will integrate the 23 hotels with
the corporate office in State College and support shared applications
still under development, including human resource systems,
accounting/financial systems and time clock functions. Future applications
may also include remote dial-up access and remote Wi-Fi access. AT&T’s
fully managed IP VPN also frees up Shaner’s staff to address more critical
hospitality needs, reduces overall management expense and supports a
broader range of applications over existing Internet connections.