Westin Sydney becomes travellers' comms heaven

When the Westin Sydney Hotel opens its doors to guests in August this year it will be setting new standards in hotel communications.

The 417 room hotel, located in Martin Place, in Sydney's central business district, is installing a communications network which will offer guests high-speed Internet access and multimedia capabilities as well as traditional phone and fax services from their rooms.

Videoconferencing and multimedia applications will also be available in the hotel's conference and banquet rooms.

James Simkins, general manager of the Westin Sydney, told Computerworld although other hotels are deploying similar communication solutions, no hotel appears to be doing it to the same degree as the Westin Sydney.

Simkins said the hotel is investing more $1 million in the project that is expected to be fully operational by mid-August.

"I think we've visualised everything that's available today, but this whole field is moving so incredibly fast it's difficult to know where we'll be in five years time. Our approach has been to put in the highest level cabling backbone that we can," he said.

"The principle is that it will be able to handle almost any new product development -- if you provide the state-of-the-art stuff now, you can hang all sorts of things off it in the future.

"So although we can't predict exactly what's going to go down the line in the future, we believe we've got the infrastructure to handle it."

According to Simkins, five ports -- two analogue, two digital and one switched ISDN port -- will be installed in each room to provide guests with high-speed data transmission capabilities.

In addition, speakerphones and Internet access via television and a cordless infrared keyboard will also be available to guests.

In terms of the hotel's internal communications system, Simkins said a dedicated frame relay link to the US will provide for high-speed exchange of data, in addition to fibre optic and Category 5 cabling.

Simkins said MCI WorldCom is providing external fibre links for the hotel.

"The supply of communications infrastructure is built into the construction contract," Simkins said, "and the cabling and provision of backbone infrastructure is part of the overall construction project. "MCI WorldCom taps into that; they provide the network outside of the hotel." Simkins said the two networks are linked at the organisation's PABX, which Alcatel supplied.

The Westin Sydney has also selected MCI WorldCom to carry its international traffic and is considering suppliers for local and national long-distance traffic, Simkins said.

"[Westin Hotels and Resorts] have had agreements with MCI WorldCom over the years as our prime carrier in North America. It's not currently MCI WorldCom, but it's up for negotiation again. We flip backwards and forwards between AT&T and MCI," he said.

Simkins said the same level of communication services is planned for the Westin Melbourne Hotel, which is scheduled to open by February 2000.

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