How to resolve poor cellular connectivity

Weak connectivity or dead zones can throw a major wrench into hotel operations. Photo credit: Shutterstock

In today’s tech-focused world, wireless connectivity in hotels and resorts has become a crucial component of daily operations. On the hotel back-of-house side, wireless is needed for several tasks, including allowing people to pay wirelessly for their stay, effective employee communications and overall guest service. Wireless connectivity also is an essential part of the guest experience, allowing people to communicate with family and friends back at home, pull up maps and plan their day, take and post photos and reviews and do work—just to name a few.

However, simply providing access to Wi-Fi often is not enough for hotels, and unfortunately, many hotels and resorts suffer from weak wireless connectivity. While there are numerous cell towers in all but the most remote locations, many things can prevent cellular signals from reaching mobile devices. The resulting dead zones—areas where something is standing between the nearest cell tower and a mobile device—can cause dropped calls and lost connections. In these spots, devices cannot access a strong enough signal to function properly on a cellular network.  

Poor cellular connectivity is the result of several factors. Building materials like stone, wood, brick and steel often are culprits because they obstruct cell signal. Even newer materials such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified windows can block signals. Other factors limiting cellular connectivity include terrain such as hills and mountains, vegetation such as thick forests and tall trees, and distance to cell phone towers. 

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Weak connectivity or dead zones can throw a major wrench into hotel operations and can cause major frustration for both hotel staff and guests. They can limit guests’ ability to make calls or get online and can hinder hotels’ capacity to provide top-notch customer service, process payments and allow employees to successfully communicate with one other in different locations of the building. Fortunately, a strong cellular signal is achievable for hotels and resorts that suffer from poor connectivity. 

Enter active and passive distributed antenna systems, which have become the most popular go-to solutions for boosting cellular signal in buildings. These solutions can make a big difference in bringing an outside cell signal indoors. They use antennas to detect existing cell signal, even if it is weak, and bring it inside. Then, these boosters amplify the signal and broadcast it throughout the building, providing hotels and resorts with stronger cellular connectivity. 

Active DAS

Active distributed antenna systems are the most robust cellular connectivity solution and provide high-capacity infrastructure solutions for large areas such as airports, conference centers and sports stadiums. However, active DAS is infrastructure intensive, with an invasive and complex installation process.

Deploying an active DAS typically requires the installation of fiber optic, which means tearing into walls and other structures. Active DAS also must be approved by the carriers they affect, so it can take up to 12 to 18 months to complete the installation. In addition, active DAS is expensive and can cost between $2 to $4 per square foot for a single-carrier active DAS, and $5 to $10 per square foot for a multicarrier solution. 

Passive DAS

Passive DAS uses antennas to capture the strongest cell signals outside and can amplify them inside up to 32 times. It is a popular solution for hotels, retail stores, real estate properties, hospitals, restaurants and schools, among other locations. 

Passive DAS does not require the creation of an internal network like with active DAS, so a passive DAS typically can be installed in a matter of days or weeks. Most passive DAS is carrier-agnostic and supports major carriers like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, as well as smaller regional carriers. Passive DAS also typically is less expensive to implement and costs between 30 cents to 70 cents per square foot. 

Whether serving hotel guests or ensuring your staff operations are running smoothly, strong wireless connectivity has become a must-have in a society that has fully adopted mobile technology. While poor cellular connectivity or dead zones can be incredibly frustrating for hotels and resorts, it is a solvable issue. Once you do the background research and select and install the best cellular signal boosting option for your hotel, you’ll immediately see stronger cellular coverage, resulting in happier guests and more seamless hotel operations.

Jake Kleiner is director of sales enablement at Wilson Electronics.

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