In what could be the largest deployment of wireless Internet access by a hotel operator in Canada, Calgary-based Royal Host Real Estate Investment Trust has announced plans to install the DataValet service from Montréal-based TravelNet Technologies Inc. in 36 of its hotels across Canada.

Bell

Canada, which resells the DataValet service, is supplying it to Royal Host, which holds master franchise rights for the Travelodge hotel chain in Canada and provides management services to Travelodge and other hotels across the country.

The service uses the increasingly popular Wi-Fi or 802.11 wireless networking standard, which can transmit data at speeds up to 11 Mbps. To use it, hotel guests will need computers or personal digital assistants (PDAs) equipped with WiFi adapter cards or any other Wi-Fi technology.

Royal Host has already installed the service at the Holiday Inn Palace hotel in Edmonton, and plans to roll it out to other locations over the next few months. Kong Ho, project manager for the service at Royal Host, said most of these will be properties the company owns, including Travelodge and Super 8 locations.

By the end of this month, he said, Royal Host plans to be offering the service at the Grand Okanagan Resort in Kelowna, B.C., at the Best Western Village Park Inn in Calgary, at Travelodge hotels in Timmins, Burlington and London, Ont., and at a Ramada Inn location in Belleville, Ont. All of these will have service throughout the building and in some cases it will extend to outdoor patios as well.

Ryan Buenaventura, a spokesman for TravelNet in Montréal, said the company was set up in 1998 as a spinoff from Nordx/CDT, Inc., a cabling design firm. It provides both wired and wireless high-speed Internet access to the hospitality industry, including Marriott, Sheraton, Hilton, Le Meridien, Radisson, Holiday Inn and Best Western hotels.

Among Canadian hotels using the service already is the Sheraton Centre in Toronto, Buenaventura said. Through Bell, it is also installed in Air Canada Maple Leaf lounges in several airports and on Via 1 business-class train coaches operating between Toronto and Montréal.

Initially Royal Host will be using the 11 Mbps 802.11b standard — currently the most popular version of Wi-Fi — but Ho said the Cisco Systems Inc. access points being installed will be easy to upgrade to the newer 802.11g standard, which is rated at speeds up to 54 Mbps.

Buenaventura said wireless access has become increasingly popular in the past few months. A quarter of DataValet’s 200 existing high-speed installations are now wireless, he said, compared with only five to 10 per cent a year ago.

Buenaventura said the average cost of implementing the wireless technology is between $125 and $175 per room, and the charge to guests is typically about $4 per hour or $10 per day. However, some hotels are offering it as a free extra to all guests. Holiday Inn plans to offer the service free to all guests by the end of this year, he said.

DataValet will provide 24-hour support.

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