August 2, 2008

CAT 5 Cable Handles Hotel’s TVs

By Anonymous

System is designed to deliver analog or digital signals over unshielded twisted pair cable. I saw a big, expensive disaster coming," says Dale Sennie, who was in charge of completing the new Sheraton Baltimore Washington Airport Hotel early last year. "Nobody wanted a time-consuming, expensive project pulling coax to every room. I had to find a better way."

Sennie is a network engineer for LTD Management Co., Chesapeake, Va., which built and manages the new six-story property. He became concerned after learning the planned MPEG-2 streaming video system over Category 5 cable would not be ready in time for the opening- maybe even long after the opening-which was only a few months away.

That simply was not acceptable to a company that specializes in high-quality hotel properties and customer services, including high- quality TV reception for its guests. Complicating matters further, CAT 5 was the only cable installed to all 203 guest rooms in the facility, and all the walls and ceilings were already in place. Installing a coaxial cable system at that stage of the project would have been time-consuming and expensive.

Network engineer Dale Sennie found a way to deliver high-quality TV reception to guest rooms without having to install coaxial cable.

Sennie took over construction management of the hotel in September 2006. About a month later, he discovered the TV problem, which became one of the toughest technical challenges he had encountered since joining LTD in 2003.

The previous construction manager had specified CAT 5 cabling for a converged network with voice-over-IP service to telephones and MPEG-2 streaming video to TVs. The phone service worked fine, but the manufacturer of the MPEG-2 media server said its new product would not be ready for implementation in time for the hotel's opening.

That is when Sennie launched a nationwide search for a solution to the problem, but all he ran into were dead ends. Finally, he was referred to Tom Conley at Bulk TV & Internet, which designs and installs TV systems in hotels, healthcare facilities, colleges, multiple dwelling units and other commercial properties across the country.

Conley recommended a Lynx video network from Lynx Broadband, a division of BH Electronics, to solve the problem. "One of our field technicians had installed several Lynx systems, which gave us a nice comfort level (with the product)," Conley explains.

The solution, compatible with CAT 5 cable, is designed to deliver analog or digital television from any source over unshielded twisted pair cable.

"I was ecstatic when I found out that I could get this done on CAT 5 cable," Sennie says. "People told me that I would get a poor signal, interference and other problems, but that was not the case at all."

When the hotel opened in May 2007, all the 42-inch, flat-screen TVs in guest rooms and public areas of the hotel worked flawlessly, offering 48 channels. "The picture was crystal clear," Sennie says.

The satellite master antenna television system that was installed delivers signals via coaxial cable from a satellite dish to the head- end closet. There they are remodulated from LNB frequencies to RF frequencies and sent over RG-11 cable to amplifiers and Lynx hubs in a wiring closet on each floor.

The Lynx hubs convert unbalanced coaxial signals into balanced signals, which then travel on CAT 5 to each guest room. A wallplate converter changes the signal back to coaxial form before entering the TV. The same network is used for TVs in the hotel's lobby, lounge and other public areas.

The system uses 16-port Lynx hubs to deliver programming to 210 TVs. Since the hubs can handle up to 256 TVs (16 hubs with 16 ports per hub), the hotel has the capacity to add more TVs.

Because Lynx delivers analog RF signals, it does not use any bandwidth on the network itself. Instead, it uses the copper wire provided by one twisted pair within the CAT 5 cable.

Installation of the satellite and Lynx equipment took less than a month. The total cost for installing the system, including the Lynx video network, was approximately $40,000, according to Sennie. "This is a fraction of what it would have cost to tear out drywall, pull coax through walls and ceilings, then repair everything," he offers.

The hubs convert unbalanced coaxial signals into balanced signals, which then travel on CAT 5 to each guest room.

Copyright Nelson Publishing Jul 2008

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