Here are a couple of reasons: to provide a platform for new business processes and to reduce costs. Internet is already entrenched in our business. Voiceover Internet protocol is going to increase value by adding both front- and back- of-the-house business advantages. Guests can use a VOIP phone to browse for hotel services and amenities the same way they do on the net. Future services can be very easily added, such as live video conferencing, check-in/-out, integration with other IP services like video-on-demand (VOD), as well as ambient controls, card keys and long-distance.

At the back of the house, the equivalent of a traditional PBX switch can be implemented at a fraction of the cost. If a switch fails, it can be controlled or backed out from a different location. If another location has better long-distance rates it can be used and shared across a company's VOIP wide area network (WAN) through the use of toll bypass features.

Our challenge is to have our infrastructure ready. To do that, we need to upgrade our traditional two-pair CAT3 low- voltage infrastructure to full-speed IP networks. Ideally, it pays to provide just one CAT6 cable per room, or single CAT6 cable to watch 10 movies (HD quality) and be on a conference call with up to 10 people, all at the same time. The cost of upgrading is relatively low if properly designed, as many vendors will want — unnecessarily — to have CAT6 for each of the services provided in the room (such as monitoring fridge beverage consumption, high-speed Internet access, IP VOD, temperature controls, VOIP phones, etc.). There is also the challenge of picking the right VOIP provider. Very few provide good VOIP integration of hospitality features. Still, VOIP has the potential to provide the ultimate in guest services in the hospitality industry.

— by Vio Nicola, vice president of information technology, Ameristar Casinos. Call 702-567-7096 or e-mail vio.Nicola@ameristarcasinos.com.

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