Case Study: Wi-Fi revolution at Emirates Palace

The new Wi-Fi solution at the iconic hotel has a 'monumental' impact

Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi is the first UAE hotel to implement the next step in the wireless market, 802.11ac
Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi is the first UAE hotel to implement the next step in the wireless market, 802.11ac
Emirates Palace director of IT and AV, Mehment Akdeniz
Emirates Palace director of IT and AV, Mehment Akdeniz

Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi is the first UAE hotel to implement a new wifi solution that has provided a “monumental increase” in capacity of the hotel’s wireless network. Hotelier finds out how this has impacted guest experience, from meeting customisation to music streaming.

As guests become increasingly mobile, hotel wifi solutions must address demand for extra bandwidth. Multimedia applications are being used on mobile devices everywhere, and use of multiple wireless devices such as a mobile, laptop and tablet is causing client congestion.

Addressing these issues, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the world’s largest association dedicated to advancing technological innovation, has introduced the next step in wireless; the 802.11ac, which supersedes 802.11n, the predominant standard up until now.

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Rationale and objective
The Kempinski-managed Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi opened in 2005 with 302 rooms and 92 suites, 15 restaurants, 40 meeting rooms, and a 1200 seating capacity auditorium.

The wireless system in the sprawling property was not centralised and therefore required manual configuration of its 1000 plus wireless access points. This challenge was exacerbated by the number of conferences and events that were being regularly held at the venue.

Emirates Palace director of IT and AV, Mehment Akdeniz said: “Upgrades to the network require on-the-fly changes so as not to cause inconvenience to guests. This can be challenging and time consuming so we decided to opt for a solution that would meet our requirements for at least the next four to five years.”

Selection process
With 600-700 guests using the network on an average day, and peak usage rising to anywhere between 1200 and 1400 daily users, the strain began to cause noticeable performance issues. As guests increasingly used bandwidth-hungry video and multimedia rich applications, both the speed and security of the network were brought into question.

Furthermore, the IT team at Emirates Palace observed that 100 to 150 users were connecting to the access points using 802.11ac devices, which were already adapted to the latest WLAN standard.

The need for an overhaul of the network was apparent and Emirates Palace, guided by MDS – a locally based partner of Californian networking vendor, Aruba Networks – made a decision to conduct the simultaneous upgrade of the hotel’s wired and wireless infrastructure.

Through a six-month selection period, Akdeniz and his team evaluated solutions from Aruba Networks along with two other market leading vendors. Aruba stood out as the only vendor offering 802.11ac technology. The wired infrastructure at Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi had been newly deployed, which meant the process was straightforward.

In practice
The implementation of an Aruba 6000 Mobility Controller and over 1000 Aruba AP-225 wireless access points was rolled out across the property over an eight-month period to limit inconvenience to guests.

MDS UAE also implemented Aruba’s AirWave Network Management platform, which delivers visibility to all devices and connections on the wireless network, allowing administrators to proactively plan for capacity, visualise client performance and troubleshoot application issues.

Emirates Palace also took advantage of a week-long training programme offered by Aruba. Akdeniz commented: “[The training] has ensured that we are capable of utilising the solution
to its utmost potential and managing even complex tasks in-house.”

The deployment was executed by MDS UAE who integrated the Aruba solution with the wired network. Akdeniz said: “Having a competent Aruba platinum partner carry out implementation was a huge benefit.”

Results
The solution increased capacity from 54Mbps to 1.3Gbps and its centralised nature appealed to the IT team.

The Aruba 6000 Mobility Controller has eliminated the need for manual configuration of access points and it runs automated software updates of all the Aruba-225 APs. Furthermore, a range of advanced features have provided a high level of security.

A graphical user interface allows administrators to make rapid changes to the network and its security settings, meaning it is more customisable, and able to meet the needs of each meeting and conference.

Akdeniz said: “We no longer waste manpower tending to labour intensive processes. Everything is easily managed from one location and visibility into every part of the network has enabled proactive troubleshooting, drastically reducing reaction time.

“Complaints about poor network performance have virtually disappeared and our business customers are often amazed to find how quickly we can accommodate their requirements.”
While currently the wireless infrastructure is used to support internet services, point of sales and digital signage, the new network has opened up the possibility of offering a complete range of guest services.

Emirates Palace already has plans to enable internet TV and music streaming and smart device controlled operation of in-room electronics. These services will rely on the new increased bandwidth solution.

“It is no longer about providing wireless; that is practically a given,” comments Akdeniz.
“Not all wireless is equal though; our solution enables us to improve guest experience in ways that they haven’t even considered.”

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