Passive Optical LAN – POL to its friends - is a relatively new LAN technology that can dramatically improve services for hotel guests, including the all-important Wi-Fi. This is a story about guest Wi-Fi, about Ethernet versus POL, about dark versus light.
I was in Sweden recently, one of Europe’s leading lights in ultra-broadband. Fiber-to-the-home or fiber-to-the-building (FTTH/FTTB) connects around 35% of households and businesses. Services of several hundred Mbps, even up to 1 Gbps, are commonplace.
I was staying in a hotel in the center of Stockholm. By chance when checking in, I could see some equipment in a back office and knew they were connected to fiber. “Great!” I thought, “A decent internet connection!”
I spoke too soon. The guest Wi-Fi provided little more than 2 Mbps. Wherever I travel for business, internet services in hotels are frequently stuck in the dark ages. Every other service in this hotel was great. So why, in a country with some of the best broadband connectivity in the world, and in an age where many of us enjoy significantly faster broadband speeds at home, would a hotel provide such a slow service?
More often than not, the answer is found in the Local Area Network (LAN) connecting guest rooms, offices and in-building Wi-Fi. Most LANs are using 30-year old technology: Ethernet running over copper CAT cables. A reliable performer over the years but struggling to compete in a gigabit fiber world and struggling to provide the internet speeds demanded by guests.
Passive Optical LAN could change all this. POL brings the LAN up to light speed. It uses fiber-optic cable instead of copper and the Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) transmission protocol instead of Ethernet. GPON is very probably powering the connection to my hotel in Stockholm, as it does millions of FTTH users around the world.
POL has many advantages over Ethernet LAN. Of course, there’s the bandwidth. GPON delivers 1.2 Gbps upstream and 2.5 Gbps downstream on each fiber, enough to provide every guest with superfast Wi-Fi. But this superior bandwidth also means there’s enough capacity to converge separate voice, IPTV, video-on-demand, surveillance and security networks onto one simple, centrally-managed LAN. That equates to significant cost savings and easier operations.
Another advantage of fiber optic cable is that it can be deployed where copper can’t. It’s far more flexible, it’s thinner and signals carry much, much further without the need for additional signal-boosting equipment. That means it can connect Wi-Fi routers in even the most remote corners of a building or campus to improve overall coverage. And less equipment means floor space and server rooms can be freed up to be used more profitably.
We’ve crunched a few numbers to try and quantify the cost savings from POL compared to traditional Ethernet LAN. In the example of a new hotel with 2,000 connections across 10 floors, CAPEX savings are 56%. But OPEX is also much lower, by 54%. Which should make POL a serious consideration for both upgrades and greenfield deployments. Actually, similar cost savings are achieved in any business or building needing a LAN.
Wi-Fi now rivals breakfast as one of the most important criteria for hotel guests. But while the consumption of croissants probably isn’t going to increase any time soon, the consumption of broadband will. Guests expect to be able to stream their music, download (and upload) their videos, and to Skype with colleagues, friends and family. And for that they need 10s or 100s of Mbps, like they have at home. With Passive Optical LAN, hotels can finally bring the quality of their Wi-Fi up to the same level as their other guest services.
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6.4.2016 Up- and downstream speeds edited.