QE2: From Fast Cruise Ship to Elegant Hotel
Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2), once the world’s fastest cruise ship, has the world’s largest marine motor and was once honored as the world’s largest and best transatlantic cruise ship. From its maiden voyage in the 1960s to its retirement in 2008, Queen Elizabeth 2 has traveled over 8 million kilometers (about 5 million miles), which is equivalent to 13 roundtrips to the moon. After retirement, the cruise ship headed to the world’s largest artificial island — Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Here, it continues its story, revealing its new face as a deluxe sea hotel, as well as a shopping and entertainment center.
Wireless network quality important to hotel’s reputation
In 1969, at age 18, Tracy Whitney was fortunate to be among the first passengers on the maiden voyage of Queen Elizabeth 2 across the Atlantic Ocean. After nearly half a century, Tracy went on holiday to Palm Jumeirah with her husband and family and chose to stay at the Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise ship hotel. The biggest difference from 50 years ago was that the first thing they did once checking in was not to visit the deck to view the scenery, nor was it to watch a play at the theater. Instead, it was to connect to the hotel Wi-Fi to share their traveling experience on social media.
Wi-Fi has already become deeply integrated into our modern-day lives. Just like Tracy’s family, guests hope for smooth access to the Internet anytime and anywhere, and to share their experiences with faraway family and friends. For hotel management, improving the operating efficiency of the hotel has always been the target, and the reputation of a hotel can directly improve its operating efficiency.
Data from a well-known hotel booking website shows that:
The quality of hotel wireless networks is a key factor in improving the reputation of a hotel. A survey by Forrester showed that 90 percent of customers think that good quality hotel Wi-Fi is essential. In addition, according to the statistics, 84 percent of luxury hotels around the world charge for network services, and a high-quality network will bring in extra income for these hotels.
Therefore, the hotel operations management personnel want to provide customers with a high-quality Wi-Fi experience to enhance customer satisfaction, improve the hotel’s reputation, and increase revenue. In addition, they can analyze the behavior of the guests to offer them a more comprehensive range of services. The cruise ship hotel must also rely on networks to achieve modernization of services and management.
The QE2 cruise ship is 293.52 meters long, which is nearly the length of three soccer fields. The cruise ship is 54 meters high, which is equal to an 18-floor building. It displaces over 70,000 tons. The ship has 950 suites, of which over 670 (70 percent) have sea views. It can accommodate 1,791 guests and 921 crew members. The ship has entertainment and leisure venues available, such as a swimming pool, golf course, library, and theater.
The cruise ship hotel’s large number of rooms are densely distributed and have complex structures. The rooms also have varying floor areas — from the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary luxury duplex suites of over 1,000 square feet to the small double rooms on Deck 5. These factors pose huge challenges for Wi-Fi coverage. Huawei and the hotel are both exploring ways to provide guests with an ultimate Wi-Fi experience, and also to facilitate deployment and Operations and Maintenance (O&M).
Traditional Wireless Access Bottlenecks
The two traditional hotel Wi-Fi layout solutions are the corridor settled solution and indoor settled solution.
In the corridor settled solution, Wi-Fi Access Points (APs) are mounted to the ceiling of the corridor, covering rooms on both sides of the corridor. Each AP covers four rooms. Test results show that in the parts of the guest rooms far away from an AP, the wireless signal is weak. There also may coverage holes. Average bandwidth per user can only reach 1 Mbit/s to 2 Mbit/s. After analysis, it was found that the main reason is that in order to provide guests with a nice environment, hotels adopt a series of sound insulation measures. These include the use of luxurious marble walls and a lot of sound insulation material. Luxury suites have multiple doors which obstruct the signal. These factors all cause severe Wi-Fi signal attenuation. However, guests require at least 10 Mbit/s bandwidth for High-Definition (HD) Video On Demand (VOD) services their rooms. Therefore, the traditional corridor settled solution cannot meet customers’ requirements for network quality.
Some large hotels that adopt the AP indoor settled solution may easily solve the problem of signal attenuation, but new problems arise:
Customer experience-centric wall plate AP
Huawei proposed the use of the AP2050DN, a gigabit wall plate AP that complies with 802.11ac Wave 2, applicable to densely populated environments such as the QE2 cruise ship hotel, with its unusual environment and network demands.
Luxury hotels have stringent requirements on guests’ experience at the hotel. Among these, not disturbing guests is a basic requirement. Traditionally, if a hotel guest reports a network problem, the hotel needs to send someone to the room, which will disturb the guest. To avoid this, Huawei provides the eSight network management system for the Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise ship hotel. eSight offers automatic deployment of devices, and provides functions such as visualized fault diagnosis and intelligent capacity analysis. eSight can help hotel management improve O&M efficiency, increase resource usage, and reduce O&M costs, ensuring the stable running of network devices. When a network is faulty, the hotel management can use eSight to perform automatic fault diagnosis and remote O&M on the network, without the need to enter the guest’s room. This improves the hotel stay experience.
Huawei’s wall plate AP supports air interface bandwidth of up to 1.267 Gbit/s. This meets the requirements of various services, such as HD VOD and Augmented Reality (AR) games.
A wall plate AP integrates several access methods, such as wireless access, wired access of four PCs, and access of two phones. Wall plate APs can optimize guest room cabling, beautify the environment for guests, and improve the network experience. Wall plate APs also provide an emergency telephone line. Luxury hotels usually will have an analog phone in the bathroom to ensure that guests can use the phone in an emergency. Huawei’s wall plate AP solution provides an analog phone port, ensuring that this ‘analog lifeline’ is not eradicated by Wi-Fi.
New opportunities with Huawei Wi-Fi
By using Huawei’s wall plate AP solution, guests of the Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise ship hotel enjoy an ultimate Wi-Fi experience. From the standard rooms to luxury suite balconies, and from the swimming pool to the golf course, all guests can conveniently and flexibly enjoy a mobile office as well as leisure and entertainment. Customer satisfaction increased by 60 percent, making it much more competitive.
Carl of Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise ship hotel said, “We believe that, with the enormous help of Huawei’s Wi-Fi solution, the cruise ship hotel will identify new opportunities in the future. This will make various new services possible and help provide guests with an ultimate experience that will make them never want to leave.”
For Tracy’s family staying at the QE2 cruise ship hotel, not only can they share their stay experience in real time on social media from anywhere in the hotel, but they can also provide a live stream for the loyal fans of the QE2 who are far away in the U.K. This allows the fans to see for themselves the rejuvenation of the cruise ship.