When a significant part of a hotel-casinos business is running conferences, its critical that conference-goers are offered as many of the comforts of their offices as possible.
That was the guiding philosophy of Pechanga Resort & Casino, in Temecula, Calif., when it was built in 2002. Although it offered no conference amenities at its grand opening, business customers soon became a major client base.
For Pechanga, Californias biggest hotel-casino, with 522 rooms, 40,000 square feet of meeting space and a 1,200-seat theatre, that meant one thing: wireless LAN.
“When we opened up, we didnt have any convention business, so we decided to wait [on wireless access] until we got going,” said Rod Luck, Pechangas director of IT.
But it didnt take long. To do it, Luck turned to a trusted partner hed worked with in the past, Technology Integration Group.
“We knew [TIG] and had business with them,” Luck said. He knew that installing a wireless network wasnt difficult but that it was important to get coverage in the right spots.
For one thing, the conference center has 14 meeting rooms. It didnt make sense to set up access points in all of them, since demand for wireless access varies by group. Luck also wanted to restrict wireless access in the casino.
“I dont want them doing e-mails telling people how much they win,” Luck said.
At the same time, Luck wanted to get maximum coverage out of what he did install, and he wanted a way to get access into the meeting rooms when necessary.
What Pechanga finally settled on was a system comprising 16 11M-bps Wireless LAN Access Point 8000s from 3Com Corp., which were tied into the hotels network for bandwidth needs but were otherwise walled off from the hotels internal systems for security purposes.
Luck and his staff decided to design an open wireless network that required no passwords for access. As a result, guests would be able to access the network throughout the hotel, with extremely little impact on the hotels IT staff.
As for the meeting rooms, Pechanga bought several 3Com Ethernet Client Bridges from TIG, which are rolled into conference rooms when needed.
“You never know where youre going to be operating one week to the next, so this saves us from having wireless access points in rooms that arent being used,” Luck said. He also thought it was important to make sure that guests who didnt have wireless access on their computers or handhelds could get that access while in the hotel. For that, he stocked the hotels business center with wireless Ethernet cards for guest use.
Not all the hotels business users want wireless access, Luck said, but without it some conferences wouldnt select Pechanga.
In fact, Luck said that the only issue hes had with the network since it was installed is that some conferences have so many attendees using wireless he has to add T-1 lines to meet their needs.
Coming up is one such conference, a group of day traders. “They all have to get Internet access,” Luck said, so hell provide additional bandwidth for them, something Pechangas IT staff handles directly rather than through its VAR.
Although the wireless network, installed in 2002, requires little attention, Pechanga continues to work with TIG on the WLAN.
The hotel relies on TIG to make sure it knows the latest development, whether its the newest letter in the 802.11 standard or information on new security methods. In fact, Luck said he expects that the resort will ultimately need to upgrade its wireless network to incorporate security advances. The resort works with TIG on other kinds of technology, and it recently signed a contract with the VAR for a storage solution.
Meanwhile, Luck said wireless has become a key part of the resorts IT infrastructure. The resort may add a significant number of rooms or an entire tower in the next couple of years, and if it does, wireless access will be included from the beginning.
Since the hotel opened two years ago, “things have changed—more and more people have laptops,” Luck said. That means wireless access “is just part of the basic plan, standard.” And he said TIG will more than likely be who he calls to get the job done.
Michael Fitzgerald is a free-lance writer based in Oakland, Calif.
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