Hotel Chain Touts Videoconferencing

Noble House deploys Masergy System to cut internal costs, will roll it out to guests soon.

Noble House Hotels and Resorts recently installed a videoconferencing system at six of its properties so that company executives can cut back on their travel. Once they get the hang of it for internal use, they will offer it to their guests, who presumably will use it to cut back on some of their own travel.

Noble Houses system represents the first commercial rollout of a new service from Masergy Communications Inc., a network services provider in Dallas. Masergy partners with makers of flat-screen televisions and router distributors to set up a television-quality video, voice and data system that runs over its own IP network.

Noble House, which owns and manages 12 hotels and resorts in the United States, deployed the conferencing system to save internal communications costs, said Kevin Martin, director of MIS for the hotel chain.

At corporate headquarters, in Seattle, and the Grove Isle Club and Resort, in Miami, Martin is purchasing data and Internet connectivity from Masergy in addition to videoconferencing services, he said.

For a flat monthly charge, Masergy provides T-1 lines leased from the local telephone carrier to connect the hotels to any of 24 Masergy points of presence throughout the United States. The monthly charge ranges from $200 to $1,200 depending on the location, Martin said. For videoconferencing, Noble House pays an additional hourly fee.

"Over the period of five years, well probably save half a million dollars," Martin said.

Officials at Noble House typically travel extensively for management and hiring purposes, according to Jennifer Ploszaj, director of public relations at the hotel chain. The company experimented with videoconferencing services provided by Kinkos Inc. but did not find them cost-effective, Ploszaj said.

"I travel every week, and its very taxing on your personal life," Ploszaj said. "You end up working late at night, and you end up working on the weekends."

One of the systems features Ploszaj finds most interesting is that it allows conference participants to toggle between the conference call and PowerPoint presentations, she said.

In addition to Grove Isle, five other hotels have the Masergy system in place: The Adolphus, in Dallas; Paradise Point Resort & Spa, in San Diego; The Portofino Hotel & Yacht Club, in Redondo Beach, Calif.; The Hotel Viking, in Newport, R.I.; and La Playa Beach & Golf Resort, in Naples, Fla.

During the first call between corporate headquarters and Grove Isle, it became apparent that there were some bugs to work out, including better educating employees about IP networking, according to Martin. Nonetheless, Martin said he is pleased with the system so far and is considering adding new services from Masergy down the road.

"Voice over IP is something that I will probably experiment with by [the] end of next year, which could also give us a lot of savings," Martin said.

Masergy has been providing video service since January, but Noble House is the first customer to deploy it to generate revenue as well as save operational costs, said Tom Sabbe, director of sales engineering at Masergy.

"The reason were calling it TV-quality video is that we have 100 percent packet delivery. We have 65 ms latency in [the] United States and 10 ms jitter," Sabbe said. "If I have a packet that leaves Miami, it gets to Dallas in 65 ms. That predictability makes for high-quality video."