It has 14 art deco salons, a boatload of history and an illustrious career dating back to 1936. Permanently anchored some four decades ago and used as a luxury hotel and conference center in Long Beach, Calif., the Queen Mary has now gone wireless.

But cutting the cords has been no pleasure cruise.

The venerable queen ship, with its one million square feet of countless nooks and crannies, including a health salon replete with 1930s-style exercise equipment, sailed into the wireless age as more visitors demanded WiFi access. Guests had previously been required to check out powerline adapters at the front desk.

With its mahogany walls, metal framework and maze of corridors, running cable to each room was nearly impossible. Thus, the ship supplied broadband access through its existing power infrastructure—a viable solution, but operationally burdensome and increasingly at odds with today’s mobile consumers.

“More people were using handhelds with no plug-ins, so there were much higher expectations,” said Steve Dobbe, co-owner and vice president of operations for Hotel Internet Services (HIS), the company that installed Ruckus Wireless’ ZoneFlex Smart WiFi equipment in the ship. (Click here for summary of original release.)

The Queen Mary’s environment, however, also taxes most wireless technologies. There is the three-story, complicated layout. “Plus, the ship is a big metal box,” Dobbe said.

“We tested Ruckus and got real good coverage for WiFi and have reduced the number of access points (APs) to 29. The Queen Mary people were very happy with that,” Dobbe said.

Previously tested WiFi systems called for a “huge number of APs,” Edgar Stevens, IT systems analyst for the Queen Mary, said in a statement. The Ruckus technology automatically steers WiFi signals around interference and adjusts WiFi transmission to overcome obstacles for better throughput, according to the vendor.

HIS deployed Ruckus’ ZoneFlex 2942 APs, which are 802.11g-compliant devices. Ruckus, however, is also known for its 802.11n technology. (Click here for a link to recent test results.)

On the less technical side, honoring the integrity of the ship’s historical value posed another challenge. With 1001 ocean crossings, including use as a troop ship in WWII, the Queen Mary is one of the world’s most enduring and popular tourist attractions, with more than three million people boarding her each year, a fact not lost on Dobbe.

“We developed a mutual trust and the Queen Mary people knew we would respect the ship’s historical integrity. We spent a lot of time figuring out how to do the installation before we started,” he said.

It seems to have paid off. All 314 guest rooms and common areas are WiFi-enabled and usage has doubled.

–Craig Kuhl

The Daily

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