I'm here at the Biltmore Millennium Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, CA to participate in the Internet Telephony conference and exposition going on here this week.

The hospitality market is a highly specialized telephony market that represents roughly 30% of the total telephony capacity. I estimate, that there is one desktop phone (albeit a really inexpensive plastic phone) in the hotel rooms of America for every two desktop telephones in the offices. I'll have to check with the folks at HITEC, the hospitality industry information technology show.

The hospitality industry, however has several special needs and realities:

  1. Any telephony device in a guest room must be turned off and on by the front desk and the property management system (PMS) on checkin, and checkout.
  2. Any telephony device in a guest room must be full of preset dial buttons. The ones in this room (Teledex) have 10 buttons for room service, laundry, restaurant etc…
  3. Any 911 call must automatically report the room and the hotel address.
  4. Hotels have deployed wireless LANs. I haven't been in a hotel in the last six months that didn't have wireless LAN services. Even truck stops had them. (We were driving across the continent on our trek from Texas to Massachusetts).
  5. In the past, long distance was the #2 revenue generator after the room which financed the PBX in the first place. Now, telecom has fallen well below room service and the gift store.
  6. The economics of communications services is driven by competition among the hotels. Your property doesn't get the business traveller if you don't have the latest amenities – wireless LAN in rooms, for example. Five years ago it was a broadband connection. Ten years ago it was movies-on-demand.

Despite these factors, the bundle of services enabled by IP telephony must drive a shift in revenues or user bookings. For example, a hotel chain could deploy an IP PBX on site that would meet all these feature requirements, [Power over Ethernet is recommended for new construction, but wireless LAN will have to do for existing buildings] and give away LD, using the IP WAN to transport those conversations and terminate them on the appropriate network participant's gateway. But, for most business travelers, LD is free anyways – they use cell services or calling cards.

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