Alyeska Resort is the largest ski area in Alaska, well-known for its steep terrain and deep snowpack. Situated in the heart of Girdwood, less than 30 miles from Anchorage, this gem of a resort boasts sweeping views of majestic mountains and ocean inlets, and is the home of many activities in addition to downhill skiing, including Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and dog-sledding. Renowned for its luxurious accommodations and for delivering the ultimate in guest comfort, when guests complained about Wi-Fi service availability and performance, the hotel sought a solution that would deliver the stellar level of service for which they are famous.
Delivering High-Speed Wi-Fi Service Throughout – from the Guest Rooms to the Pool
Long before the Internet and Wi-Fi were mainstream, this prestigious hotel provided complimentary Wi-Fi service in public areas, such as the hotel lobby, and wired Internet connections in the guest rooms. But as Internet access and Wi-Fi became part of everyday life, the existing network solutions were unable to accommodate the increasing number of devices and their growing bandwidth requirements. Guests expect pervasive Wi-Fi availability — yet this requires a great deal of time and cost to support.
For Alyeska Resort, the wired Internet connections in the guest rooms generated volumes of support calls from guests who weren’t able to connect, sometimes for reasons as basic as a cable that was incorrectly inserted into the wall plate. There were so many issues that a ow chart and pages of detailed instructions were created and distributed to ensure that the hotel staff had the information needed to help resolve the many daily support calls. Not only were guests frustrated, but hotel staff productivity was also impacted. The time spent troubleshooting Internet connection issues could have been better spent serving guests.
When guests began to carry smartphones and tablets in addition to laptops, the lack of in-room Wi-Fi created access dead zones. With ever increasing demand and limited access areas, the existing Wi-Fi network was quickly overwhelmed. Thus, guests complained about the lack of wireless connectivity in the guest rooms which affected their TripAdvisor® scores.
Alyeska Resort was searching for the best solution, one that would provide a superior wireless experience on every mobile device. Leading the search, Martin Cassens, Director of Information Technology, teamed up with ExtenData. A Colorado based solutions consulting company, ExtenData helped Mr. Cassens find the right in-room wireless solution in the Extreme Networks WLAN infrastructure — the T5 Wi-Fi over VDSL2 system, plus AP 7161 802.11a/b/g/n MESH outdoor access points.
Dependable High-Speed In-Room Wi-Fi
The T5 system allowed Alyeska Resort to easily provide every guest room with high-speed wall-to-wall Wi-Fi coverage, with plenty of bandwidth to ensure superior wireless performance, regardless of how many devices may be in use in a room or in the hotel. Plus, the T5 solutions was a breeze to install.
The unique in-room T5 WiFi over VDSL2 architecture uses the existing telephone wiring and is compatible with the existing telephone and data network equipment — there was no need to rip and replace existing wiring, the existing PBX or the in-room telephone.
Beyond the Guest Rooms: Extending High-Speed Wi-Fi Throughout the Hotel Complex
With the guest rooms covered, Cassens turned his attention to the remaining floors and the staff working in the outlying buildings on the property. The T5 Wi-Fi over VDSL2 solution was deployed in the first three floors of the hotel, to provide Wi-Fi service to guests and hotel staff in the pool area, spa, restaurant, retail shops, banquet rooms and administrative offices. That left the outlying buildings on the grounds — the maintenance shop and the grounds buildings.
Older copper cabling connected the maintenance shop to the corporate network, while there was no connection to the grounds building. Rain and snow were causing disruptions in service and Alyeska wanted to provide a reliable network connection to both outlying buildings. Rather than digging trenches to lay expensive fiber, ExtenData advised Alyeska to deploy Extreme’s rugged AP 7161 802.11n outdoor access points to provide the point-to-point link to each building. Says Cassens, “It couldn’t have been easier to wirelessly connect our outlying buildings…they were up and running in just a few hours. And since the AP 7161 is designed for the harshest weather conditions, it provides a rock solid and dependable high speed 802.11a/b/g/n point-to-point link, even in heavy rain, snow and bitter cold.”
2016 Update: Continued Service and Support Year After Year
After three years of issue free, solid, and reliable T5 service the Alyeska IT team contacted ExtenData for support. Upon review of the issues, Alyeska’s team and ExtenData determined that an upgrade to the firmware would resolve their current issues as well as unifying the management of Alyeska’s six TS-524 Controllers.
Always the diligent solution provider and customer advocate, ExtenData took the opportunity to update Alyeska on Extreme’s recent product developments. Based on this information and Alyeska Resorts continued interest to improve their guests’ Wi-Fi experience, they decided to upgrade the in-room Wi-Fi for the top two floors of the Alyeska Hotel with 40 new TW-0522 802.11ac Wi-Fi Wallplates.
In addition, four old Access Points were replaced with four new AP7522 Access Points to provide robust 802.11ac coverage for very popular Alyeska’s guest areas that included; Skiers Daylodge, Sitzmark Bar and Grill, AAA Four Diamond mountain-top Seven Glacier Restaurant and the New Bore Tide Deli and Bar at the Upper Tram Terminal.
100% Guest Satisfaction With Wireless Internet Service
“The best testimonial comes from our guests’ silence. Before we implemented the Extreme WLAN solution, literally everyone was talking about the lack of wireless connectivity in the guest rooms. Now, no one is talking about it. Not only does it work flawlessly, we can guarantee that every guest will have the bandwidth required for a superior wireless experience, regardless of whether they are in the lobby or in their room, how many devices are in use in the room — or how many devices are on the network”, said Mr. Cassens.
Superior Flexibility and Investment Protection
“In the hotel business, it’s all about serving guests. This extremely scalable and flexible solution can grow with us to help us better serve our guests. Not only can we meet the wireless needs of our guests for many years into the future, but this same WLAN infrastructure can allow us to deploy wireless solutions to help improve the productivity of our own workforce —and enable our workforce to better serve our guests”, said Mr. Cassens.
Dramatic Reduction in Network Management Time and Cost
The resort’s previous wireless infrastructure required highly skilled, certified IT personnel. By contrast, the Extreme WLAN solution is simple to manage. All WLAN infrastructure is managed from a single centralized location; and equipment is automatically discovered and provisioned, eliminating the need for any hands-on configuration. Network and device status and statistics are easy to monitor, allowing the hotel to uncover and resolve problems before they have a chance to reduce wireless service levels. Says Cassens, “With these management tools, troubleshooting is so easy that, if we had the same number of issues we had with the previous system, we could resolve the issues in much less time. However, the system is so reliable, there hasn’t been anything to troubleshoot.”
Increase in Staff Productivity — More Time to Tend to Guest Needs
Onboarding is so easy that guests virtually no longer need support. Instead of lengthy configuration processes, users simply log on to any browser. They are then automatically re-directed to a page where all they have to do is check a box to accept the terms and conditions associated with connecting to the hotel WLAN. No more instruction manual. As a result, hotel personnel have more time to spend caring for guests instead of troubleshooting network connection issues.
Future Wireless Plans
Moving forward, Alyeska will continue to replace their legacy access points onsite with newer and faster access points in the future, as well as evaluating their network needs going forward and determine if the 802.11n will need to be upgraded to 802.11ac to maintain the high standard of guest satisfaction. As this and other Wi-Fi projects arise, Alyeska will continue to rely on ExtenData for their experienced guidance and Extreme Network’s Wi-Fi solutions.