March 23, 2006



Posted: 09.01.05

The Height of Success

For an enterprise on the 36th floor, five-bar service means business is up and employees are staying put.
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By Alex French

Here’s a little-known fact: Cell phone towers are directed downward. Big deal, right? Well let’s just suppose for a moment that your company is headquartered on the 36th floor—the very top of the U.S. Bank building, one of the tallest buildings in beautiful St. Louis, Mo., a building with an apex high above the reach of those downward-facing towers situated on lower surrounding buildings—and that the construction of your building prevents the free flow of RF signals. And let’s just imagine the frustration that overcomes you when, with your forehead against your office window, you gaze down upon the masses below and remind yourself that all of those people on the pavement have cell phone reception and can send and receive messages on their BlackBerrys and have consistent and strong wireless signals on their laptops. And let’s just try to imagine how much more frustrating that revelation might be when considering that your company—a company that generates roughly $1.6 billion dollars per annum, a company with 30,000 employees and hundreds upon hundreds of mobile workers—isn’t running at full capacity.

This was a real problem for the people working in the St. Louis office of Carl Karcher Enterprises (CKE), the parent company of quick-service restaurants such as Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. Wireless coverage was terrible on the three floors the company occupies—the 20th, 36th and the penthouse. Executives weren’t able to receive important calls on their cell phones, and BlackBerrys—CKE’s communication device of choice—were rendered useless. According to Tom Lindblom, the VP and chief technology officer of CKE, “Our people felt cut off from the outside world. It was quite a distraction because the signal was a little better on the 20th floor, and during meetings our people always wanted to take breaks so they could go make phone calls or check e-mail.” Lindblom continues, “It’s an interesting dynamic, because if you know that nothing is going on, you’re more relaxed, more attentive in the meeting. But when people feel like they’re cut off, they want to go check their e-mail or make sure they don’t have any new voicemails. And then some of our people actually started coordinating their meetings around wireless coverage.”

To remedy the situation, CKE looked to Sprint PCS, with whom it had been working with for more than a decade. Sprint’s sales team engaged its In-Building Solutions group to find technology that would improve the company’s indoor coverage. The answer to these problems came from Canada-based Spotwave, which, according to Lindblom, had worked at another CKE office. “It was a no muss no fuss transaction, so going back to [Spotwave] was a logical choice.”
According to Paul Tinney, VP of worldwide sales and marketing at Spotwave, “Our goal was to improve coverage for CKE to ensure that their investment in a corporate wireless plan with Sprint was maximized. We’ve demonstrated that
in-building coverage is an essential element in achieving the full benefits of a mobile enterprise.”

Spotwave offers a number of wireless enhancement solutions. There’s the SpotCell Home & Small Business coverage system, which is targeted at small businesses and home users—
people operating in spaces of up to 5,000 square feet. But CKE needed the SpotCell Enterprise Indoor coverage system, which is a system designed for larger players who operate in much larger spaces—one Enterprise system can cover over 80,000 square feet.

The project got underway when Sprint sent office floor blueprints and location specifics to Spotwave, which, in return, sent an engineer to CKE to measure the RF signals throughout the office. The result of this visit was a modified version of CKE’s original blueprint, detailing the locations where Spotwave would want to install receivers. According to Lindblom, “Spotwave told us it would take three to four days to install, but they were wrapped up at the end of the second day, and then they did extensive testing to make sure the signal was strong and consistent throughout our space. I thought it was going to be much more involved and a lot more painful, as far as disruption in the office. But they did most of the work after hours. Neat and professional.”

What’s really exciting about the Spotwave transformation is that the integration of the technology into the everyday lives of CKE’s employees was seamless. According to Tinney, “No other internal operations needed to be changed or modified. This is because Spotwave’s products simply enhance indoor wireless coverage so that mobile devices can be used effectively, and so that the original business benefits in investing in a wireless plan can be fully realized.” Lindblom says that the technology just works. All of a sudden, BlackBerrys updated automatically and cell phones got five-bar reception, like they’re supposed to.
CKE is not at liberty to say how much it spent on Spotwave’s technology, but Spotwave’s Tinney relates, “In-building coverage ROI takes into account the need to recoup the cost of lost ‘benefits’ associated with not having adequate coverage and not achieving a true return on the original wireless investment in cell phones and PDAs or 3G services.” Still, Lindblom insists that CKE is thrilled with the product—and CKE no longer has to rent out hotel conference rooms to hold important meetings.
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