Have you ever lost cell phone service or been unable to find coverage while visiting the Las Vegas Strip? That’s not an uncommon problem, partly because it’s very difficult to support the growing demand for advanced mobile and wireless services at resorts that are literally the size of small cities. Not only do these big sprawling buildings have thick concrete walls as well as a mix of indoor and outdoor spaces, but the sheer number of people within them – overnight guests, conventioneers, show goers, gamblers, staff and others – can easily top the tens of thousands. So it’s no wonder service can sometimes be spotty.
However, recognizing that the performance of phones, tablets, laptops and other digital devices can make or break a guest’s experience, several of the major resorts on the Strip have been actively enriching and expanding their mobile and wireless service capabilities.
AT&T has led the charge at The Venetian, The Palazzo and the Sands Expo and Convention Center. Last week, the media was invited to go on a behind-the-scenes tour and get a firsthand look at the new DAS (Distributed Antenna System) installation that is 4G LTE capable. Right now, 4G LTE is the gold standard for wireless communication. Without getting too tech-heavy, the DAS installation consists of multiple strategically placed antennas that efficiently distribute wireless network coverage throughout these three properties. It has the ability to provide enhanced and consistent cellular coverage to customers in indoor or outdoor spaces where geographical limitations and crowd density might otherwise prevent an optimal experience.
Robert Williams, director of sales for AT&T, helmed the tour. He explained that usage of data on mobile networks has increased a whopping “30,000 percent in the past few years.”
Indeed, if you think back to little more than 10 years ago, you probably just used your cell phone to make calls. Today, you’ll only occasionally make a call between avidly texting, surfing the internet, taking and sending photos, playing games, watching videos and much more.
“With all the millions of people that visit, every connection absorbs a certain amount of bandwidth, and on some weekends that can mean a huge amount of mobile data traffic,” said Williams. “The macro network outside can be very, very robust, but once we get inside [The Venetian] the radio waves do not penetrate well. So instead of going from outside in, we had to do an inside-out approach.”
In recent years AT&T has invested more than $200 million to enhance coverage of its wireless and wired networks in Las Vegas. This includes the DAS installation at The Venetian, The Palazzo and the Sands Expo and Convention Center, which house approximately 7,000 suites and host numerous conventions with heavy needs in terms of connectivity and communications. After two years of planning, it took about six months to build and two months to test and optimize the DAS infrastructure here.
“We want our customers to have a great network experience wherever they are, no matter what they’re doing – whether that’s making a call, checking email, downloading apps or surfing the internet,” said Stephanie Tyler, president of AT&T Nevada. “We’re committed to our investment in the local wireless network, and providing enhanced wireless coverage at The Venetian and The Palazzo resorts and Sands Expo and Convention Center is just one way that we’re investing in Las Vegas.”
Here are some other interesting bits of trivia regarding this project: There are enough cell sites at The Venetian, The Palazzo and the Sands Expo and Convention Center to cover (in square footage) the city of Pahrump. Plus, more than 40 miles of Ethernet are being used in the DAS installation between the three properties.
Also in early October, MGM Resorts International announced it has been working with Mobilitie and Cisco Systems to roll out one of the hospitality industry’s largest next-generation Wi-Fi networks. The goal was to make high-density, dependable wireless internet access available throughout the low-rise public spaces (places like pools, lobbies, restaurants and even the casino floors) of about 10 of their Las Vegas properties.
The project to put in this infrastructure began at Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay (including THEhotel) and The Mirage – all of which were completed by the end of 2012. Properties in CityCenter had already been outfitted with an impressive Wi-Fi connectivity system when the urban complex opened in 2009. But more recently, Aria, Vdara and The Shops at Crystals were integrated into the new high-performing network. In addition, four more properties on the south end of the Strip – New York-New York, Monte Carlo, Luxor and Excalibur – have completed installation of the new network, allowing guests to have more optimal wireless experiences there too.
Now if you visit any of these MGM Resorts International destinations in Las Vegas, you’ll receive complimentary Wi-Fi access in the public spaces, with the option to upgrade to a higher bandwidth for a fee.
“No one else in Las Vegas, and even the world, within the hospitality industry can offer the scale, quantity and quality of wireless services we now have available,” said John Bollen, senior vice president and chief digital officer for MGM Resorts International. “We implemented the same commercial-grade technology and design solutions used at last year’s Super Bowl and Summer Olympics to provide even better engagement with MGM Resorts’ world-class destinations. With this new capability and the right technology partners, we are developing and enhancing innovative products and services based on our customers’ needs, interests and preferences to deliver the best possible experience at our premier resorts.”
With the continuing explosion of mobile and wireless devices and our increasing reliance on them, these developments are welcome news. Las Vegas visitors can have more confidence that they will be able to keep in touch and interact easily with the digital world during their stays.