Hotels Getting Rooms On-Line With High-Speed Internet Access, In-Room PCs

NATIONAL REPORT? When it comes to the Internet, any end-user will tell you that faster is better. As aging baby boomers edge into retirement, and are replaced in the corporate travel ranks by 20 and 30-something Gen-Xers reared on the ten-images-a-second MTV culture, Internet surfers and data-junkies alike are speaking loudly that they want to see the same high-tech, high-speed computing devices in their hotel rooms as they have at home. And once they have that, they?ll want them to be better. The phenomenon mirrors the hotel room amenity trend which has unfolded in the industry for several years: as room rates inch up, guests are looking for bigger, more lavish and better equipped hotel rooms. Most people, analysts agree, are not looking to rough it for a night in a hotel. They want to feel like their ?hospitality experience? is a step up from their day-to-day residential accommodations. In-room Internet access is no exception to that rule. While the hotel industry has been behind the technology curve for several years, corporate and private hoteliers are getting on the bandwidth bandwagon and seeking cost effective, comprehensive solutions for providing guests with high-speed data access. A number of companies appearing at the various vendor expos this year are marketing product packages which do exactly that. Millville, NJ-based Solar Communications Group recently rolled out its offering, the PCRoomLink. The company already has deals in place at a number of hotels nationwide for installation of their product, which includes a fully-functional PC and flat-screen monitor in every room. PCRoomLink supplies the computers, a customized workstation (which can be designed to match decor) network servers, routers and high-speed access to the Internet and e-mail messages. Each room is outfitted with a PC and connection jack which uses existing copper POTs (plain ordinary telephone) lines. The genius behind the system really lies in the connectivity. By using a much higher frequency than ordinary analog telephone service (which tops out at 56Kbps), the in-room PC can access a single T1 line and subsequently utilize the full 1.5 Mbps provided by that data pipe. But here?s the kicker: because the data is sent back and forth at much higher frequencies, analog phone service can still take place over the same lines, thereby keeping the hotel?s PBX free from the bottlenecks which have hampered the progress of in-room connectivity solutions. Rick Rivera, vp/marketing and sales for Solar Communications Group, said that the service is designed to increase hotel occupancy and encourage repeat visits from business travelers. The company has special agreements with Compaq and AT&T to provide the most up-to-date hardware and network services for their hotel customers. A separate data port is also incorporated into the design so that an end-user can either access the Internet via the in-room PC itself or by using a personal laptop computer. The high-quality connection provides both types of users clear data channel speeds of 1.5 Mbps without impacting voice traffic. ?Until now, travelers have had to rely on cumbersome laptops and costly data ports to access remote servers,? Rivera said. ?PCRoomLink will allow travelers to check their e-mail, utilize popular software applications or surf the Net without leaving their hotel rooms.? Austin, TX-based Wayport, which recently cut a deal to provide high speed Internet access to Rosewood?s The Mansion on Turtle Creek and Hotel Crescent Court in Dallas, also claim to provide a turnkey connectivity solution. The Wayport system reportedly works flawlessly at T1 speeds, but guests must provide their own PC. For $8.95 plus guest tax, guests receive unlimited high speed Internet access (at 1.5 Mbps) using standard PC hardware and software by simply plugging into Wayport?s in-room Ethernet connection. One of the early innovators in the in-room high speed access genre is Cais Internet with its patented OverVo