Marriott Execs Check Out Dual-Mode Phones

ORLANDO

Arnaldo Impelizieri started his career 20 years ago as a cook at a Marriott hotel. Now, as an IT manager, hes looking to cook up a mixed Wi-Fi and cellular recipe for hotel guests.

Impelizieri, who works for Marriott International Inc. as director of hotel technology at the Grande Lakes Orlando resort here, is surveying vendors of dual-mode phones that support both cellular and Wi-Fi services and could be used by guests as well as hotel employees. An event organizer could check in and use the phone on the hotel Wi-Fi [network] and then use it off-site over cellular while running errands, Impelizieri said.

Schubert says traditional analog phones eventually will disappear from hotel guest rooms.

Schubert says traditional analog phones eventually will disappear from hotel guest rooms.But the dual-mode phone vision is still somewhat abstract, acknowledged Impelizieri. He and other Marriot IT managers would also need to sell the concept to executives at Morgan Stanley, which owns the Grande Lakes resort and has hired Marriott to run the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotels located on the property.

Computerworlds Mobile & Wireless World conference was held at the Ritz-Carlton last week. Neil Schubert, vice president of IT strategy at Marriott International, said in a keynote speech that a recent upgrade of the four-year-old Grande Lakes included the addition of more than 185 Wi-Fi access points in a bid to provide better voice and data reception in rooms and meeting areas.

In addition, nearly 500 cone-shaped antennas from Mobile Access Networks Inc. have been installed in the hotels. The antennas carry signals back to the Wi-Fi access points and cellular hardware that is installed in wiring closets on every floor, Schubert said.

He noted that after the resort opened in 2003, there was a staff meeting where nobodys BlackBerry worked and no cell phones worked, and our CIO said simply to fix it.

The yearlong upgrade cost $2.2 million and was mostly completed last December. One unusual aspect was that lead contractor Acela Technologies Inc. got the cooperation of four major cellular carriers to improve signals inside guest rooms and large meeting spaces.

But Schubert said that because cellular providers are typically reluctant to pay for improving indoor signals, dual-mode phones might be beneficial because a hotel could depend entirely on a Wi-Fi network.

Marriott expects that eventually it will no longer provide traditional analog phones in its guest rooms, Schubert added. Nobody is using them except to order room service or call somebody else in the hotel, or to order a wake-up call, he said.

To demonstrate his point, Schu­bert asked via an electronic poll how many of the people in the audience had used their in-room phones over the previous two days. Only 1% said they had.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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