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Wi-Fi in the walls at the Mandarin Oriental New York

Wi-Fi in the walls at the Mandarin Oriental New York

Posting in Architecture

The Mandarin Oriental's five-star New York property was crippled under the wireless Internet demands of its customers. Installing Wi-Fi in the walls tripled capacity.

We've always enjoyed the occasional stay in a Mandarin Oriental property (we're partial to the New York and Las Vegas locations), and now we've got one more reason to do so: there's wireless Internet in the walls.

The hotel group has contracted Ruckus Wireless to install its Wi-Fi wall switches for all 248 guest rooms in its flagship New York City hotel, citing "explosive demand" for wireless capacity.

The move follows successful installations at sister Mandarin Oriental properties in Tokyo, Manila, Jakarta, Sanya, London and Hong Kong.

As befits a five-star hotel, the Mandarin New York has a history of early tech adoption: it was among the first to deploy a converged IP network, distributed antenna system (to extend wireless signals), IP-based voice, stored and broadcast IP video, and -- naturally -- plasma displays.

Capacity, coverage, and user density were the big problems at the New York property, said Oscar Gomez, director of information technology at the hotel.

He said:

Given the guest demographic, the expectation for more reliable, higher speed and ubiquitous Wi-Fi literally exploded when smart devices like the iPhone and the iPad hit the market. The hotel’s previous implementation of Wi-Fi over our in-house distributed antenna system, was originally installed to provide better cellular coverage but as time passed and technologies changed, we found that it couldn’t scale to accommodate the soaring Wi-Fi usage rates and concurrent connections our guests needed. We ultimately decided that an upgrade wasn’t the right tool for the time.

Now that televisions, phones, environment control systems, staff service applications (housekeepers are equipped with Apple iPod touch devices) and even minibars (!) have an IP address, the upgrade was needed. Since the install, the hotel's capacity has tripled, complains have dropped by 85 percent and, perhaps most startlingly, wireless traffic has eclipsed that of the wired network.

“In October of 2009, we were supporting approximately 2,600 unique wireless sessions generating over 336 gigabytes of traffic,” Gomez said. “In November of 2011, these figures skyrocketed to over 12,000 unique wireless sessions generating over two terabytes of traffic just on the Wi-Fi network."

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Andrew Nusca

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Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure