Ramada in Cornwall skips Wi-Fi in favour of power lines

While many hotels are turning to Wi-Fi wireless networking to provide broadband Internet access to their guests, the Ramada Inn and Conference Centre in Cornwall, Ont., chose to use its electrical wiring instead.

The unusual

project brought Trytel, the unit of Telecom Ottawa Ltd. that installed the system, the Internet Protocol Project of the Year award at last week’s Telemanagement Live! conference in Toronto.

The hotel began a six-month trial of the power-line networking system from Toronto-based Electrolinks Corp. this spring, said Scott Lecky, general manager of the Cornwall Ramada. It provides free Internet access in all guest rooms. The service currently works at about one megabit per second, said Jim Yuan, who works on special assignments for Trytel and was involved in the Cornwall project, but new modems are now being tested that will boost the speed to 4.5 megabits.

“”We were looking at identifying what was the best way to deliver high-speed Internet to our room guests,”” Lecky said. “”It’s becoming increasingly obvious it’s something you have to have . . . it’s almost becoming like a coffee maker was 20 years ago.””

Built in 1973, the hotel has many internal walls of concrete block, making it both difficult to rewire and unfriendly to wireless networking, said Lecky. The conference centre wing of the building has Wi-Fi, he said, but the number of access points needed to provide wireless coverage in all guest rooms would have made Wi-Fi more costly than the power-line option in the hotel wing. New cabling would also have been more costly.

Meanwhile, Trytel and Telecom Ottawa had been looking at Electrolinks’ technology. In development for three to three and a half years, this system can run broadband data over electrical wiring either within a building or between buildings on the power grid itself, according to Neil Appalsamy, Electrolinks’ president and chief executive. The company is working with seven North American utilities to put its system to work delivering broadband Internet service over the power grid, he said.

While the system works over medium-voltage power lines between buildings, Yuan said it currently needs fairly costly equipment about every 200 metres, which is a handicap for offering data services commercially over the electrical grid. He expects that to change, but in the meantime Trytel decided to look for an opportunity to deploy the technology within a building. The company proposed power-line networking to the Cornwall Ramada, and, said Lecky, “”We said hey, let’s give it a try.””

The installation presented a couple of interesting challenges. Appalsamy says the 30-year-old hotel was built in three separate stages and each had its own separate electrical system. Trytel and Electrolinks had to bridge between the panels to get data traffic flowing throughout the building.

Yuan added that the Electrical Safety Authority, having little experience of power-line networking, required Trytel to install a separate electrical panel to connect data signals to the building’s electrical wiring. In European power-line networking installations, he said, the connections are made in the existing panel.

The hotel supplies guests with a special modem that plugs into a regular electrical outlet and connects to the computer’s Universal Serial Bus (USB) port. The system is working smoothly, Lecky said. “”We’ve been pretty happy with it. Guests seem to be happy with the speed and accessibility.”” Though the system is still officially on a six-month trial, Lecky said he currently expects it to become permanent.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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Grant Buckler
Grant Buckler
Freelance journalist specializing in information technology, telecommunications, energy & clean tech. Theatre-lover & trainee hobby farmer.

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