INTERNATIONAL REPORT—When it comes to in-room entertainment, hotel guests are looking for high-quality premium content. Many guests bring their own devices and apps these days, but others look to the guestroom TV for entertainment, live news and premium sports channels. SAT>IP helps deliver these options to guests—in a cost-effective way for the hotel.
“Very often, hotels still have some not-so-comfortable TV installations,” said Martin Faehnrich, secretary of the SAT>IP Alliance, and manager, standardization, Panasonic. “There’s still—especially in Europe—a lot of cabling, and sometimes only very limited content. Generally, a TV is something that makes people feel at home. It’s like your living room: You sit down, you relax and enjoy. That’s the expectation from the average hotel customer. SAT>IP is a tool to bring hotels a bit in this direction.”
With SAT>IP, hotels can offer a seamless, multi-screen TV experience—including guests’ laptops, tablets and smartphones. While the protocol was originally developed for satellite signals, SAT>IP enables the distribution of a broadcast signal, regardless of whether it’s satellite, cable or terrestrial, delivered over a single IP network. The content delivered can range from standard definition to 4K UHD content, even when there’s not a high-speed broadband connection.
“You can do a lot of things easily with this technology—and cost efficiently, which is, of course, important because you have a lot of rooms,” Faehnrich said.
First and foremost is the cabling. With SAT>IP, there’s no need for coaxial cables. “You can reduce it to an IP-only infrastructure,” Faehnrich said. “It makes wiring much easier for the hotel operator, much more cost efficient. And, with SAT>IP, the whole quality is transparent. You can, for example, connect your SAT>IP headend to a satellite dish or to a cable system, whatever you like, so it works agnostically.”
Faehnrich noted that there are many TVs on the market that have integrated this technology from the beginning. “In [Panasonic’s] case, you can also clone the service list from the TVs, which means it’s easy to duplicate the service lists for many rooms in hotels,” he said.
Speaking to the trend of streaming media, Faehnrich said, “In the classic case, you need to connect the coax cable and you need to connect the IP cable to the TV set, or you need an additional box. With SAT>IP, you have IP already in the room and in the best case, the TV supports IP streaming services. Looking at our TV sets, we have Netflix built in. Various vendors have apps built in. All of these things work by nature because the TV is connected already directly to IP. This means our TVs don’t even need a box. If a TV doesn’t support SAT>IP, you can use an external set-top box. Then you still have the benefit of reduced cabling costs because you don’t need the coax.”
One of the biggest benefits for guests is the quality. While 4K UHD TVs are ubiquitous in homes and gaining traction in hotels, high-quality content puts pressure on broadband bandwidth, slowing down internet speeds. And, for locations in remote areas, local broadband availability may not be the best.
“With SAT>IP, it’s fully transparent, which means it takes the original broadcast signal as it is and brings it via IP to the end device,” he said. “Very often, the IP delivery systems reduce the quality for streaming and in-house services because they think it could be tricky or they have some special target ideas in mind that they don’t need the full quality, but SAT>IP is designed to deliver the full quality. It can bring everything from SD signal to a 4K signal via IP on the TV screen.”
Guests can also watch SAT>IP on their own devices, increasing the flexibility they have. “This depends on the content itself, if it’s encrypted or not, but in general, it’s no problem to use SAT>IP for feeding individual devices,” he said. “In a room, if someone wants to watch sports on a big screen and someone else wants to watch the news on a tablet, it can connect on WiFi. This, of course, depends on the WiFi installation in the hotel, but with it, they can connect to their favorite TV stations or more—individual content only available in the hotel itself. It really can complement the hotel content, be it in-house radio streams or additional services.”
It’s important, of course, to think about the end-user experience. “For example, Pansonic’s whole idea was to hide the technology a bit in our TVs so consumers don’t really see it,” he said. “Everything is exactly the same so the consumer doesn’t notice it’s connected via IP. It should be very easy and must be very easy. When technology is very prominent, people are usually quickly frustrated if it doesn’t work. Usually, SAT>IP, the technologies and devices I know, are quite consumer-friendly.”
When hoteliers are considering their TV options, Faehnrich said there are several questions they should ask.
“In general, the hotel owner should ask what will be the cabling and installation costs? What kind of TV content would they want to offer customers—is it just regular TV content or is it satellite content or cable content? Do they want to offer IP content?” he asked.
“Those are the basics. Then it goes further to the rooms itself—do they want to have a very high-quality room without set-top boxes?” he added. “In high-quality hotel rooms, they want tidy-looking rooms, smart-looking rooms, with less technology. So it would be a good idea to place a TV there equipped with SAT>IP and maybe other IPTV features. If it’s less important, you can also work with set-top boxes. If you’re bulk ordering from a dedicated TV manufacturer that doesn’t offer SAT>IP, you of course have to think about a set-top box or changing to another [manufacturer].”
Looking toward the future, guest expectations of the TV experience will only increase. “This is something we can see from other things. People don’t expect some old looking bathroom. They want nicer bathrooms,” Faehnrich said. “The rooms should be quite good quality, and connectivity is an increasing feature. It starts with USB charging for mobile phones and that the mobile phones can connect wirelessly to TV sets. These are already the applications of today; the TV set is the multimedia device in good hotels and will be even more so in the future. TV sets from 10 years ago are not comparable to today. Today, we have a lot of connectivity, apps on TV sets, and TVs can connect directly to streaming services. These are technologies in widespread use. Consumers really expect that they can seamlessly switch between various kinds of content. Rich content is increasingly becoming normal.”