Travelodge Canada on Monday said it would offer wireless high-speed Internet access to its national franchise of mid-market hotels following a successful rollout earlier this year.

Deployment of the services, should operators

choose to install them, will be based on TravelNet Technologies Inc.’s DataValet service, which uses the 802.11 (Wi-Fi) networking standard and access points from Cisco Systems. The service was first set up in 36 Travelodge properties through an agreement between Bell Canada, which resells DataValet, and Royal Host Real Estate Investment Trust, which owns the Travelodge brand in Canada.

Dan Gulin, director of franchise services and operations for Travelodge Canada, said he would be marketing the service to franchisees through internal mail, broadcast faxes and through personal contact with general managers. Some of 120 franchises, he said, have already shown some interest in DataValet, seeing it as a way to compete more effectively for business travellers.

“”It’ll be like the coffeemaker, eventually (where) you just need to have it, or like a hair dryer,”” he said. “”I would hazard to guess it will be (expected) within the three-year mark or so.””

TravelNet assists with the service by first conducting a site survey of each property that assesses the physical makeup the building. In some cases, franchisees have been able to use existing wiring, but many others have had to re-cable, according to the firm’s director of sales, Robert Soussa.

“”The biggest obstacle is consist coverage — in any room you have to have a steady signal,”” he said. “”We’ve addressed that by making sure we do a good site survey and by putting in the right access points.””

The hotels have also had to make sure there is a separate signal from meeting rooms and guest-rooms, given that franchisees may offer different rates for various locations in the property, Soussa said.

Gulin said one general manager of a property which has already deployed the service told him occupancy has increased 15 to 20 per cent since installing high-speed and is already ordering more antennae for guests carrying laptops.

“”They’re wowed by the system,”” he said.

Although some of the Travelodge properties have an IT manager, Soussa said it may be a dual role that also includes maintenance.

“”Part of (what we do) is taking care of the project management,”” he said. “”We look at the floor plans, room numbers, layouts, and we can create the network design. The installers will deploy that.””

Besides TraveLodge, Royal Host has also offered the service to resort properties in B.C. and Calgary. Bell and TravelNet launched DataValet at the Sheraton Centre Toronto in 2001.

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