Ruckus Wireless today (22 January 2013) announced that it has been selected by Marston’s PLC, one of the UK’s leading brewers and pub operators and the world’s largest brewer of cask ale, to supply Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi equipment for use within its pubs and restaurants nationwide.
With over 2,000 locations across the UK, Marston’s wanted to better leverage Wi-Fi to improve the customer experience and increase the efficiency of its operations. Pubs, restaurants and retail outlets of all kinds are looking for new ways to attract customers, keep customers more engaged and leverage Wi-Fi analytics that could provide insight into innovative new services.
‘Marston’s had installed Wi-Fi over three years ago and has always taken a very active and early adopter role in the use of technology in our operations,’ said Rob Derbyshire, operations manager for Marston’s Telecom. ‘But since that time–with the rise of Wi-Fi-enabled devices of all shapes and sizes– the world had changed–making Wi-Fi no longer simply nice to have, but rather a strategic necessity.’
Ruckus ZoneFlex Wi-Fi system
To improve service efficiency and guest access, Marston’s is installing Ruckus ZoneFlex dual-band 802.11n Smart Wi-Fi access points (APs) both indoors and outdoors. These Smart Wi-Fi products support line of business applications such as in-store electronic point-of-sale (EPOS) systems that staff access using tablet devices to provide a more flexible way to take orders, settle bills and provide a greater level of service.
Marston’s is deploying single or multiple Ruckus ZoneFlex 7363 APs inside its pubs and restaurants along with outdoor Ruckus ZoneFlex 7762 APs in garden areas. Wi-Fi management is performed remotely by accessing local ZoneDirector Controllers or standalone APs, and the Ruckus FlexMaster Centralized Wi-Fi Management System enables all these environments to be managed from a single location.
‘Ultimately we are a business that must turn a profit,’ remarked Derbyshire. ‘That said, we understand how our customers work, live and play as well as the role that wireless technology has in their lives. As a result, we have found that providing fast and reliable Wi-Fi has both a direct and indirect impact in increasing revenue.’
Coverage, capacity and performance levels
Previously Marston’s had installed in its pubs a single Wi-Fi access point based on conventional Wi-Fi technology. But recently, the demand for Wi-Fi access has increased as more users armed with more devices try to simultaneously access the network. This raised concerns over capacity, coverage and performance.
‘Interference was becoming an issue. Coverage was becoming an issue. Reliability was becoming an issue,’ explained Derbyshire. ‘We needed a Wi-Fi system that could handle a large number of concurrent user connections, extend signal range, maintain stable connections and deliver higher aggregate throughput. Yet when it came to each vendor’s offerings, these requirements seemed to compete against each other.’
Cloud-based Wi-Fi or not
Marston’s evaluated a number of Wi-Fi products, including cloud-based offerings, but found dramatic differences in price and feature/functionality. With few to no IT staff in each pub, an easy to deploy and simple to manage Wi-Fi system was required. In turn, Marston’s initially believed that a cloud-based solution would work best.
‘Meraki’s system had a compelling user interface but the recurring annual licence costs per AP made the overall solution much more expensive,’ said Derbyshire. ‘This fact, along with lower client capacities and a number of feature and architectural limitations, such as inter-AP roaming performance that go along with a cloud-based solution, just didn’t work well in our environments.
‘Our first priority had to be delivering the best possible wireless experience to customers. Believe me, the combination of great ale and great Wi-Fi creates strong customer loyalty,’ he said.
Marston’s ultimately tested and selected the Ruckus ZoneFlex solutions and began its Smart Wi-Fi rollout. The Ruckus kit gave Marston’s the flexibility to deploy standalone APs or multiple APs with local controllers – all of which could be centrally managed.
‘Ultimately, it came down to performance and reliability. The Ruckus system simply delivered a demonstrably better Wi-Fi experience using more thoughtful technology designed to deal with constantly changing environments and user behaviours,’ said Derbyshire.
BeamFlex adaptive antenna array technology
Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi access points integrate patented BeamFlex adaptive antenna array technology that directs radio frequency (RF) energy toward each client, continually picking the fastest path for each packet. This provides greater coverage and the ability to deliver stronger Wi-Fi signals to users, even as environmental conditions change.
Ruckus adaptive antenna arrays also support dual-polarization, allowing signals to be transmitted and received at different angles. This enables more consistent Wi-Fi connectivity to devices such as tablets that are constantly changing orientations. In its Wi-Fi testing with Ruckus gear, after two days of deployment, Marston’s found that over half of its transactions were going through staff tablets along with a significant increase in client Wi-Fi connectivity.
Leveraging Wi-Fi potential
Looking forward, Marston’s see endless possibilities to leverage its new, in-store, Smart Wi-Fi networks. ‘With carrier-class technology now in place, we view the network as a utility that we can use for almost any application we can think of such as multimedia delivery, location-based applications, push-to-talk voice for our staff – the list becomes endless,’ concluded Derbyshire.