94% of people cite Wi-Fi as the most important amenity. – Hotel Chatter
Surprisingly, a survey of travelers found that hotel wireless came out as the most important factor in selecting and rating a hotel – beating out location and getting a good night’s sleep!
So, not only does it top the list on amenities, but it plays a major role (possibly the major role) in selecting your hotel and then telling others about it.
Bottom line: If your WiFi is slow and unreliable, you are losing guests (many that you don’t even know about).
What do you do? You know it’s important. You know your guests are demanding it. But let’s face it, you run a hotel because that is what you are good at. You’re not a tech wiz.
IHG, Best Western and just about every other brand out there is coming out with new requirements for WiFi. New standards will be arriving in your inbox soon, if they haven’t already. What do they mean, and how do you tackle them?
To help you out, let’s dive into what makes up a hotel wireless network and review some of the key areas where you can improve your guest experience, resulting in better reviews, more guests, and guest retention.
The key elements:
- Incoming Circuit: The incoming bandwidth from a carrier (Comcast, Time Warner, Frontier, Charter, etc).
- Hospitality Gateway: Also called the wifi controller, it’s the brains of your network, providing a login page, security and integration to your PMS, among other things (think Nomadix, EthoStream, ANTlabs, Super Click, RG Nets).
- Network Switch: This distributes the bandwidth to the other parts of the network (HP, Netgear, Cisco, DLink).
- Wireless Access Point (AP): This broadcasts the wireless signal and provides connectivity to your guests. There may also be a wireless controller to manage the APs (Ruckus Wireless, Cisco, Aruba).
- Cable: This is the physical wire that connects all the key elements together (Cat5e, Cat6).
- Guest Support Company: This is the 800 number that your guests call for remote assistance if anything bad were to happen. They also provide monitoring, troubleshooting, and some sort of portal for you to see statistics of your network and make changes to it.
Today, let’s look at just point number 1 – Your circuit. It’s hard to keep up with how fast speed requirements are changing. A 2013 Hotel Chatter article breaks down what a guest can do with 5+Mbps, 1-5Mbps, and
That is the big question. I run into hotels almost daily that have 10Mbps for their 75-room hotel and can’t figure out why they are getting slow speed complaints. Let’s remember that your guests are coming from their house where they often have 25+Mbps all to themselves. Guests expect hotels to be just as good.
While 25Mbps per guest is not practical right now (wait a year or 2 and it may be), you can provide excellent speeds that will make your guests happy and want to return to you (and tell others to do the same).
Are you a hotel that has a lot of business travelers? They will need enough bandwidth to VPN back to work.
Do your guests want to stream Netflix, watch YouTube videos without waiting for them to buffer and Skype with family back home? You may think you don’t want them doing those things over your network, but you can be sure that doesn’t change their intention or perception. Your speeds don’t allow this? You will be hearing about it…and so will everyone else.
Good news, bandwidth is getting cheaper all the time and the kind of bandwidth needed for these things is not necessarily the expensive kind (i.e. fiber). What you want is a large amount of inexpensive bandwidth (read cable here or something like it).
Want to know how much bandwidth to provide? Think about your type of guest and your occupancy. How many people may be online at a time?
Let’s say you have 150 rooms and anticipate up to 150 people online at a time. Not everyone is going to need high bandwidth all the time (Facebook and email don’t take that much). Let’s say that 15 of those people will be high bandwidth users (VPN, Netflix, etc.). Another 75 will be doing basic things like streaming music, cruising Facebook and checking emails. The final 60 people may be connected, but aren’t doing much. Their device may be running upgrades in the background, but they are low usage typically and low priority.
- Your 15 high-use guests will need 3-7Mbps each
- Your 75 medium users will need about 1Mbps each
- The final 60 users will need maybe 30Mbps total
Add this together and you get a minimum of 150Mbps. If you are in a metropolitan area, this should be easy to accomplish without breaking the bank. If you are in a secondary market, it may be a little more difficult, but large bandwidth is becoming more and more available.
Also, are you worried about the cost of providing these high amounts of bandwidth and the kind of wireless network that will make your guests happy? While I am a proponent of free WiFi, there is the option of providing free basic WiFi to meet the everyday needs of your typical guests and charging a small fee for the demanding business users. This will help conserve bandwidth, cover the costs of providing an exceptional network, and give users the speed they really need.
Posting by Jeremy West
Want to read more? Check out our Case Study about the Benson Hotel
Author: Jeremy West