Everest climbs into hospitality market

In an effort to attack what it sees to be a relatively untapped market, Everest Broadband Networks of Fort Lee, N.J. has announced that its updated business model to outfit hotels with high speed Internet connections will be based upon an IP service delivery platform supplied by Atreus Systems Corporation. Atreus is located in Santa Clara, Calif. but its main research and development arm is in Ottawa.

According to spokesperson Dayna Kully, Everest plans to use an Atreus server in its network operations centre to manage the laptop-sized broadband access controllers located in each Everest-served hotel. Everest is in the midst of hooking up seven of its 34 hotels to the Atreus server.

Kully said the centrally managed platform will allow the company to push out new broadband services to its customer hotels quicker, and it will reduce maintenance time. She said the technology will also enable Everest to distribute content specific to a hotel user from one central location.

“A guest who is participating in a meeting might want information on the meeting like an agenda, location details and a syllabus,” explained Kully, a vice president of Everest’s Hospitality Group. “Whereas a guest in a room might want access to local area entertainment, restaurants or room service. The system is intelligent enough to recognize who somebody is and where they are and send them the appropriate information.”

Despite the increasing number of so-called BLECs (business local exchange carriers) aiming to provide Internet access and broadband services to multi-tenant commercial and residential buildings, Kully cited a Cahners In-Stat Group report that said only six per cent of hotels are actually wired for high speed (considered to be 50 times faster than a 28.8Kbps dial-up connection). In May, Cahners also predicted the U.S. market for multi-tenant broadband equipment and services will grow from US$371 million in 2000 to nearly US$2 billion in 2004.

Dan McLean, an analyst with IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, said there has been hype regarding high speed hotels offering enriched voice, video and data services for the past few years. But he said the advances in wireless technology have allowed the road warrior to do work anywhere they want, not just in a hotel room.

For hotels to take advantage of the value added services an intelligent building can offer, it must begin getting the word out to business travellers, McLean said.

As is the case with most other hotels, Kully said users of the Everest served-hotel’s Internet link will pay a daily rate, usually US$9.95. Connections are made through either a T-1 or a 4Mbps DSL modem.

However, she said it is not feasible for her company to offer free high speed wiring to hotels, a strategy she said has backfired for other companies.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the time, a hotel wants to wire 100 per cent of the rooms,” Kully said. “And the reason for that is our competitors have gone and given it away, so they’re figuring, ‘If I can get it for free, why wouldn’t I?’

“It’s very expensive to deploy (high speed service). The Canadian market is a little bit more forgiving. They’re a lot more conservative and more reasonable, and much more likely to wire a portion of the rooms, like an executive floor.”

Kully said Everest is planning to use a distribution model to sell its services to hotels. The company has signed up Toronto’s Delphi Solutions to be its first distributor.

“The partners that we use to install and sell our service are people who do hotel system installation, so they understand the inside wiring of a hotel,” Kully said. She added that the company plans to announce a deal with a hotel in Canada sometime in the near future.