How do I connect my laptop to an ISDN line in a hotel?
August 20, 2006 6:38 PM   Subscribe

I need to connect my laptop to an ISDN line in a hotel room. What hardware do I need?

I am traveling to the lovely UK town of Brighton next month for a conference. The organizers booked me into a boutique hotel without internet access. They told me that they do have ISDN and that "guests are able to plug their laptops directly into the ISDN line and use the internet this way. You'll need to ensure that you bring the correct cabling."

I have two questions:

1 - Does this sound like a technically correct answer?
2 - What kind of adapter do I need in my laptop? Any recommendations?
posted by jeffbarr to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
1 - No.
2 - An ISDN modem, if that's what their setup actually is. You'll also need an ISDN-compatible ISP, such as UK2, who you don't need an account for.
posted by cillit bang at 6:52 PM on August 20, 2006

If the hotel room has a standard phone outlet, and if your laptop has an inbuilt 56K (V92) modem, that should get you a reasonable connection with a bog-standard phone cable, even though the phone outlet may be served via ISDN. You won't get the full speed ISDN is capable of, but you should get a solid dialup-grade connection.

If ISDN access for guests is something that the hotel offers specifically, I'd contact the hotel to find out what I needed to connect my laptop to it.

Personally, I would be fearful of using a hotel phone for anything beyond quick local calls though. But perhaps that's because I once got hauled over the coals by the CFO for running up thousands of dollars in phone charges from a Holiday Inn in Berlin. I hadn't read the fine print, I had no idea just how extortionate hotel phone rates are, and I talked to my sister in Australia for 45 minutes.
posted by flabdablet at 6:55 PM on August 20, 2006

(By "no", I mean they almost certainly mean ethernet. Which hotel is it?)
posted by cillit bang at 6:55 PM on August 20, 2006

Actually, "modem" is a misnomer about ISDN- its actually called a terminal adapter because it does nto modulate/demodulate the way a modem does.

However, my guess is that this hotel means that they already have a terminal adapter plugged in (since it would have to be configured anyway) and you just need to bring an ethernet cable.
posted by crazyray at 6:55 PM on August 20, 2006

more info here.

I would call and verify that by "proper cabling" they really mean to bring an ethernet cable.
posted by crazyray at 6:58 PM on August 20, 2006

Yeah, configuring an ISDN is a big deal. It'd be like setting up a T1. They surely MUST have a ethernet interface available.
posted by crunchyk9 at 6:59 PM on August 20, 2006

Wow, lots of info in just a few minutes. The hotel is the Blanch House.

They also told me that I need to "request that the telephone line for your room is opened when you check in." This doesn't sound like Ethernet.

I just bought a "Xircom CI Euro PCMCIA Credit Card ISDN Card" via eBay for a very nominal price, just in case that's the solution.
posted by jeffbarr at 7:11 PM on August 20, 2006

ISDN is so 1994. You're in for some fun.

In Great Britain, they use what some call 8 bit or 2 x 64K, or 2B+D Basic Rate ISDN in home services. You could use an outboard device like this to connect your Ethernet port to the BRI ISDN line, and get 64K/sec single channel, or 128K bonded channel operation, if your ISP still supports bonded channel operation. BRI delivers 2 independent 64K voice/data channels, and 1 9K "D" channel for call signaling and control. It's a full digital service, so it doesn't seem quite as clunky as analog services and modems, but it is far from broadband, especially if you have to download/upload files, or synchronize databases in Lotus Notes applications, or other groupware. And the channel bonding protocol required to get 128K operation has to be explicitly supported on both ends of the connection, or it doesn't work.

Businesses with a lot of lines often get another variant of the ISDN service called PRI ISDN, which delivers 1 or 2 D channels for signaling and call control, and something like 23 or more 64K data/voice channels, each of which can carry an individual call. Channel bonding can be supported across as many channels as can be agreed an managed on both ends of the connection, and this service is still used internationally for video conferencing, due to its ability to offer point to point wide band on-demand communication over the telephone network. But you need different hardware and cabling to hook up to PRI systems, generally, and I doubt the TA device above would work if that is the way the hotel is delivering ISDN service in the room.

You should be able to call guest services at the hotel directly for specifications and recommendations on interface equipment. For best compatibility, if you have to buy a PC Card or external interface, cables, adaptors, etc., buy it/them in Britain, to avoid technical problems.

In the rest of Europe, like Germany and France, they have a different ISDN standard, which uses 7bit data/voice channels for 56K channels. British or American signaling equipment won't work well in EuroISDN channels, but the international phone network interfaces these systems seamlessly by defaulting to the lower EuroISDN signaling speeds whenever it is called upon to feed American or British ISDN calls to EuroISDN destinations, or vice versa.

And do work out the phone charges at the hotel up front. Even if you're making local calls to an ISP there, you can rack up unbelievable telephone charges, pronto.
posted by paulsc at 7:12 PM on August 20, 2006

Google seems to back up that it is ISDN, but it certainly isn't normal for people in the UK to have ISDN equipment and know what to do with it, so the hotel should be used to dealing with confused people and should be able to give you lots of help setting it up.
posted by cillit bang at 7:34 PM on August 20, 2006

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