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Business Home > Opinion Analysis
 
More on bandwidth on demand

Farid Faraidooni (COMMUNICATIONS LIFE) / 5 August 2012

The demand for bandwidth in the hospitality sector is forecast to grow by as much as 4.4 per cent a month for the next few years, according to an industry study.

People are accessing bandwidth-hungry applications at almost every hour of the day, making a high-speed Internet connection the highest consideration for hotel guests. Meanwhile, free wireless broadband has become standard fare for restaurant and cafe diners.

Burstable billing is an alternative method of measuring and paying for bandwidth. It allows usage to exceed a specified threshold for brief periods of time, delivering an excellent customer experience without the risk of facing a huge bill from the telco or Internet service provider, or ISP. The burstable billing plan provides a guaranteed high level of Internet access that comes with additional bandwidth delivered on demand, which is billed at a slightly higher rate.

It is particularly appealing to companies in the hospitality sector because the demand for broadband capacity can vary so much at different times. Demand is high during the morning and the evening when guests use their laptops and tablets to access online functions. It will also spike when a conference room is used by business guests to host a high-definition video conference meeting.

Commonly, hotels buy their Internet services as a bundle or package that is specified according to the average consumption over a specified period of time, usually a month. The problem is such that they can find themselves left short at times, when demand exceeds expectations, such as during a large business event.

Not only can the process of provisioning extra bandwidth be slow, but if estimates of usage during the event fall short of demand the customer experience suffers as a result. If it is over-provisioned, the hotel and its client are charged for resources that are not utilised. Usually an Internet service provider will charge businesses a flat rate for unlimited use, with the monthly bill set by the maximum speed band chosen by the customer — be that 4, 8, 16 or 24MB/second. An alternative billing model is to pay for the total data transfer capacity used over a month, with a specified data transfer capacity delivered for free and with any extra bandwidth or data transfers over and above that incurring an additional charge. In both cases, the service might fall short of expectations at periods of very high usage, bandwidth could remain unused or charges might become painfully high during periods of over-utilisation.

Burstable billing enables a boost in available bandwidth for a short period to meet peaks in usage, without having to contract for any increased capacity. Ideally, hotels could access a bandwidth service that has the flexibility to be taken up to 100MB/second from a service based on a 24MB/second package.

These billing options do not adequately address the problems of Internet traffic optimisation and congestion management.

While burstable bandwidth does offer some advantages, it does carry the risk that the required additional bandwidth may not be available when needed, so dependence on it can only be part of the solution.

In this context, there is another alternative favoured by the hospitality sector known as multilink architecture. This is where a number of links to a single ISP or telco are provisioned, which can provide additional bandwidth without additional costs.

Hotel chains all over the world are leading the way with new “load balancing” technology, which ensures the very highest quality of Internet services for guests. They have installed intelligent Internet traffic management devices that provide the flexibility to load balance between multiple Internet connections or combine multiple ISP services to boost connectivity and increase overall bandwidth. These allow the most bandwidth-hungry applications, like videoconferencing or streaming applications, to be automatically routed through the best Internet service available, while email and non-critical web browsing traffic can be pushed across less-expensive cable and DSL connections.

The hospitality industry has much to do if it is to meet the growing expectations of guests. A survey of two million logs of Internet use in hotels across the US by Cisco showed that, when divided by the total number of rooms in the hotel, the speed distribution had a mean of just 220Kbps and a median of around 22Kbps — a connection speed unlikely to result in a consistently excellent customer experience.

Hospitality managers consider developing a comprehensive broadband strategy as a matter of some urgency. A broadband service business case needs to address a full complement of considerations, such as termination of current fee models against the possible erosion of revenues for basic free services and increased revenues for fee services; possible revenue streams from advertising and increased group and corporate sales, and developing a business case for employee mobility. Mobility has the potential to empower employees to address guest needs faster and more effectively. If employees have real-time access to information, they can assist guests on the spot.

With the advent of bandwidth-on-demand, it is only a matter of time until hospitality businesses have all the broadband services they need.

ISPs and telcos in the region are making ready their bandwidth-on-demand propositions for the upswing in demand, as hotels and restaurant managers begin to understand what it has to offer.

Farid Faraidooni is the chief commercial officer of du. The views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper’s policy.

 

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