World Cinema Inc. (WCI) has been in the hotel television business for almost five decades. Founded in 1974, it was the first television service provider to hotels nationwide and has supported hotels through the evolution of technology—from the VCR days, through the launch of satellite TV, then the transformation to high-definition television and, finally, to the combination of internet and television via streaming and interactivity that is seen in properties today.
The company currently partners with more than 100 local field service and construction companies, serves more than 4,200 properties nationwide totaling to more than 600,000 rooms, and regularly manages more than one million networked devices. Here, Robert Grosz, EVP/chief commercial officer, World Cinema Inc. provides tips on investing in the right connectivity solutions for your property.
What are the benefits of fiber connectivity for hotels? How easy is it to replace current cable with fiber cables throughout a hotel without interruption? When it comes to the guest connectivity experience, fiber provides the fastest, most reliable and lowest latency connections available—a must-have for today’s guests. Fiber infrastructure also offers the ability to scale in terms of bandwidth capacity to support future applications. There is a reason why fiber optics is powering the deployment of advanced 5G networks. Fiber is where the internet performs best.
But if your hotel doesn’t already have fiber, the upgrade can be costly from the standpoint of disrupting the property’s operations. It’s not impossible to pull fiber to each room, but it’s not always easy. There are solutions which involve the deployment of fiber optics to intermediary distribution points throughout the property and then connect to structured wiring (category 6 or better) shielded wire infrastructure for the last 100 meters to the room or WiFi access point.
In the future, we will use 5G technologies to connect fiber to a radio access network (RAN) throughout the hotel and then leverage the cloud-based network intelligence of 5G to easily deploy high-powered 5G gateways that create further ethernet and WiFi densification throughout buildings. Fiber will almost always be the backbone, but the last 100 meters may be copper wired or even completely wireless. Therefore, existing hotel owners shouldn’t give up hope that their property can be a world-class digital ecosystem without the pain of completely rewiring the building.
What is GPON, and how can it be a cost-effective option for hotels? Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) is a flexible fiber access technology for delivering internet throughout a property. Through its point-to-multipoint technology, GPON uses passive splitters to distribute fiber, enabling one single fiber to support multiple users throughout a property. If GPON is deployed at the edge of the network (the hotel room), a property must be mindful of some key design decisions early in the process.
Decisions like: How will I secure a GPON endpoint in the room? How will I power the GPON endpoint in the room? What if power fails, do I need power redundancy? Who can fix issues if they arise, especially if a fiber is cut or breaks? These considerations should be top of mind when deciding to deploy a GPON solution.
It’s critical to address these concerns with the provider who is selling or supporting your solution long-term. Fiber to the room via GPON can offer a marketable advantage to your competition and will provide excellent connectivity, however, you must be aligned with a highly trusted partner who adheres to strict contractual service levels if problems arise. Failure to think long-term about any technology decision is a risky mistake.
What is ImpruviX by WCI and how does it work? ImpruviX is our division of WCI that’s focused on connectivity and digital transformation. It starts with a professional services team which acts as technology architect to evaluate a property’s current technology and then identify improvements using the latest technology, design tools and product sets. We do this through a number of workshops and meetings with various levels of property ownership, management and current suppliers. We then recommend a series of strategies to meet each property’s long-term goals.
We understand that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to providing hospitality to guests. We believe that to become your most trusted partner, we must be the single point of contact so you can focus on your core business of operating hotels, which is why we also fulfill the technologies that we recommend. Being involved from the initial vision and design stage all the way through the day-to-day operations is the only way for us to stay true to our promise of delivering every time, no exceptions.
With ImpruviX, we can support connected applications like smart-room technology including light and thermostat controls, digital locks and window treatments—giving guests greater personalization over their stay. ImpruviX also offers environmental monitoring through smart flooring, sensors and leak detectors that help hotels increase operational efficiency while lowering costs. In addition, ImpruviX can deploy AI-based surveillance cameras to protect a hotel’s brand reputation while creating a safe and comfortable environment for guests and staff.
What other services does World Cinema provide for hotels? At WCI, our ultimate mission is to become a hotel owner’s trusted advisor and first choice for in-room entertainment solutions, connectivity experiences, professional services and any technology which has a positive impact on guests, staff and owners. Through our partnership with DISH, we deliver free-to-guest television programming that fits the needs of guests while adhering to a wide variety of brand standards. We also provide over-the-top entertainment solutions through our fully customizable WorldVue platform, offering guests the most innovative technology and entertainment services available.
WorldVue gives guests access to their favorite content through streaming apps and casting technology. Additional features include a personalized in-house channel for hotels to showcase their property or even provide in-room workouts, and contactless technology such as a mobile web remote, in-room checkout and concierge services all accessible through the guestroom TV. As customer trends have changed significantly over the past year, we see the ability to have autonomy and control over their stay continuing to be a driving force among guest expectations, making the need for personalized and immersive digital experiences more important than ever.
WCI also offers professional services using a team of technology engineers, system designers and project managers who are dedicated to properties from the development stages to ongoing support. WCI serves as the one point of contact for hotels when it comes to installation, service and support for in-room entertainment and connectivity solutions.
Is there anything else that your company is working on for the hotel industry that would be of interest to our readers? WCI is continuing to evolve our business to best enable owners of hotels and other guest-centric properties to capitalize on new opportunities generated from technology solutions. This includes collaborating with other technology vendors to deliver complete and successful executions of a property’s technology strategy. By forming tight integrations through partnerships or acquisition of best-of-breed technology suppliers, we can provide properties with the most advanced technology strategy that focuses on the customer through reliability and communication.
We are also venturing into the digital transformation space to support large enterprises and entire portfolios through end-to-end solutions. This includes managed network services, global connectivity, edge cloud computing, IT agility unified communications and more.
Our customer care center continues to be an area of focus for us as we understand the need for a responsive and reliable partner. This is something we have always prided ourselves on and we’re excited to launch an internal program called WCI University to give our team a consistent and cutting-edge training and development resource. We believe the value we provide our customers is directly proportionate to the investment we make in our employees.