High anxiety over hotel's mobile-phone blackout

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 August, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 August, 1999, 12:00am

VISITORS to the world's highest hotel in Shanghai have been left speechless by the spectacular view, the ultra-modern decor . . . and the fact that their mobile phones refuse to work at such lofty heights.

Staff at the Grand Hyatt hotel, located on the upper floors of the 88-storey Jin Mao building, discovered soon after opening day that reception for cellphones was either patchy or non-existent.

Business visitors entertaining clients in the hotel's gourmet outlets have had to endure the face-losing embarrassment of being unable to bark commands into their slim and expensive machines.

Technicians have been working frantically to try to solve the problem, which has taken the shine off the Jin Mao's proud boast of being the mainland's tallest building and the world's third-highest structure - not to mention Shanghai's aspirations to be considered a modern city with Hong Kong levels of engineering sophistication.

The unforeseen glitch has been blamed on the amount of metal used in the construction of the Jin Mao, a skyscraper meant to be a modern interpretation of a traditional Chinese pagoda, which soars high above the Pudong waterfront.

Work so far completed has radically improved the reception and by next week mobile phone-users should be able to make and receive calls with ease.

The installation of a HK$3.3 million mobile phone booster system, which includes extra antennae, is expected to solve the problem once and for all.

But not everyone has been dismayed. Many visitors have enjoyed the rare experience of being in a five-star Asian hotel where the lobby, restaurants and lounges have been bereft of boorish entrepreneurs yammering loudly into their cellphones. The silence has also allowed guests to contemplate the extraordinary views of Shanghai from the Grand Hyatt's floor-length windows.

On a clear day - admittedly rare in the smog-bound commercial city - visitors can see way beyond the Bund promenade and, in the other direction, across the fast-developing landscape of Pudong.

The Jin Mao tower, built at a cost of US$540 million, looms 420 metres above the skyline. It has 61 elevators, including two which take visitors from the ground floor to the 88th floor observatory in less than a minute.

Mark Graham in Shanghai