Why hoteliers should consider Fiber to the Room technology

With fiber’s unlimited bandwidth, multiple devices per guest don't cause network strain. Photo credit: Pixabay

Guest satisfaction is key to repeat business and brand loyalty. This is why property owners invest resources in adding amenities, technology and making sure their rooms are as comfortable as possible. As travelers begin booking nights post-pandemic, technology and safety are at the top of their wish lists from properties, and these can be determining factors in whether they consider one destination over another.

Contactless check-in, mobile room keys and even TV controls using a mobile device are applications that are being added to hotel networks in response to current realities. And as guests check in via these contactless ways and retire to their rooms, the real connected experience begins. They bring with them multiple devices with the expectation that they will reliably be able to stay in touch with loved ones back home while they seamlessly take care of business or enjoy the entertainment they want while away. To accommodate this need for connectivity, more hotels are looking into and deploying Fiber to the Room technology. Instead of running category cable and coaxial cable to each room, a FTTR deployment runs a single composite cable (fiber and power) to an active device that would then deliver triple-play services to the hotel room.

There are several advantages hotel owners can expect from FTTR deployments:

1. Space savings: Fewer cable runs mean smaller conduit, smaller cable trays and less need for telecom closets on each floor.
2. Unlimited bandwidth: With fiber’s unlimited bandwidth, multiple devices per guest don't cause network strain, and popular streaming services can be added.
3. Network simplicity: Converging multiple networks into one single network over one fiber—and power-deep—infrastructure helps network administrators with the daily management and with future upgrades.

A study commissioned in late 2018 analyzed the costs of a fiber network in a hotel and found that FTTR is essentially cost neutral day one, with significant TCO savings over a 15- to 20-year period. Add to that the flexibility of easily adding applications to networks as needs arise—like contactless technology—and the result is a network solution that is ready to meet property and guest connectivity needs of today and tomorrow.

Details of Study

The purpose of the study, which was done by a group of consultants/integrators including Engineering Plus, CompAdvise, and Qypsys, was to examine the cost of deploying a passive optical network in the three hotel sizes most commonly quoted—125 room, 500 room and 1,000 room. This was then compared with the cost to deploy a traditional copper/coax network. 

Cost comparisons can be difficult, as major cost items, such as the cabling, quantity of cabling routed to the room, labor, space and value of future proofing the network design, is often hard to quantify and can differ based on materials used, location, union vs. non-union labor and hardware selection.

The technology that was used for the study was the Corning Software-Defined LAN offering GPON. Corning was chosen because the integrators/consultants authoring the study were all familiar with the product line, and deployment data was readily available for comparison purposes. 

The FTTR price per room trends down as the room count increases and at a slightly greater rate. The final finding is that, while capital expenditures using FTTR versus a traditional copper/coax-based network may be neutral or more in smaller properties, the long-term benefits and positive impact to total cost of ownership are undeniable.

Ready for Future Upgrades

While the study mainly examined the CapEx savings, the long-term total cost of ownership advantage of FTTR is the wire-it-once story of fiber. A big advantage of Fiber to the Room infrastructure is, as networks expand in the future to accommodate additional in-demand applications, such as new Wi-Fi access points or additional security devices, additional cabling (fiber runs) is not necessary. The new applications can be added to the network by attaching to the existing active device at the edge using a short patch cord. If additional ports are required, a different device can be easily swapped out. This practice can help eliminate multiple parallel networks as well as help end a costly rip and replace cycle when network upgrades are required. This activity usually carries the messy and very expensive proposition of cutting access hatches, creating pathways and repairing the damage to walls and ceilings. The FTTR approach eliminates this disruptive upgrade practice.

How to Plan for Fiber to the Room

Whether the TCO is attractive or you want to improve guest satisfaction scores, Fiber to the Room is worth a look for future upgrades, and especially for new projects. Many hotels have already adopted, deployed and are maintaining this technology. Although properties are diverse in size and amenities, every property is dependent upon connectivity that can enable necessary applications to enhance guest experiences and safety in this post-pandemic world. Only the unlimited bandwidth and superior reach of fiber can equip your property for future networking needs that will keep guests checking in—contactless—with confidence.

For more information and to download the study, “Fiber to the Room: A Cost Analysis” visit www.corning.com/hospitality.

Kelli Buescher is a marketing manager with Corning Optical Communications and a member of the Association for Passive Optical LAN, APOLAN.