Free WiFi At Long Last!

Category : Hotel Technology
Date : December 19, 2017
Free WiFi At Long Last!

To show you how much times have changed, we need only compare two frequently asked questions posed to the front desk. Whereas, “Do you have free WiFi?” was common a decade ago, nowadays this is more likely to be, “What’s the WiFi password?”

If you understand the difference, then you already know what that means as it concerns guest expectations. The latter inquiry is assumptive; it takes for granted that wireless internet is available and free. Luckily by now, most hoteliers offer free WiFi in their lobbies and guestrooms, albeit sometimes conditional on being a member of a chain’s loyalty program or incumbent upon another similar action. Then for meetings, often this is a paid extra for the conference convener to add to their event package.

But we’re missing the third critical factor to this whole ordeal. Yes, guests demand that it’s available and that it’s free, but they also want it fast! What good is free internet connectivity if the bandwidth supplied is so restricted that to download an email that contains anything beyond a few lines of text takes minutes instead of milliseconds?

Many of us want to claim that they offer free WiFi, but frankly it’s a bit of sham, especially when this ‘say but it’s free but then give them crap’ tactic is being foisted by hotels across all price categories. And then there’s the tiered systems which are also waning in acceptance. Whereas ten years ago, free and fast internet, even if surcharged, might have been a value-add, nowadays it is all part of the basic expectation, and if you don’t oblige your guests then rest assured it will play into their overall emotional reaction to your property.

As an analogous example, could you imagine if you said to a paying customer in the middle of a summer heat wave, “I’m sorry, but if you want to set your thermostat below 23C/74F it will cost you another $14.95 per day.” Or imagine that your shower is rationed to only deliver only a middling, yet ultimately inferior, water pressure. If you’re reading these and thinking that they are great ideas, may I suggest that you’re in the wrong business!

The same can be said for restricting internet bandwidth in your guestrooms to levels that will barely allow for basic communications, especially when they are business-oriented. Now, there is obviously an upper limit to this as providing bandwidth for, say, four devices all simultaneously streaming Netflix is ridiculous. In fact, there are quite a few companies that can help you manage the faucet to both curb the pigs amongst us as well as install restraints so everywhere has adequate speeds during peak periods. But this upper threshold should certainly never inhibit the downloading of a PDF or loading a person’s Facebook newsfeed.

So, what free bandwidth setting is appropriate? I’m not going to get into numbers here; rather, I would suggest that you establish an in-room benchmark that allows for one device to easily upload photos to social media, view digital media sites including YouTube and download reasonable sized documents (for example, a 15-page PDF with images, which should amount to upwards of 2mb) without any undue delay.

Coincident with your review of bandwidth standards, you should also examine how your guest accesses your WiFi within the property. Many properties still have significant delays on access permissions, requiring multiple screens and checkboxes. My suggestion is to hold your next executive committee meeting in one of your guest suites, and then see how long it takes to access the system in addition to assessing whether anyone can work under those circumstances. Remember, your goal is to make your guests’ lives on the road easier, not to set up roadblocks to their enjoyment of your hotel!

(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in HotelsMag on December 1, 2017)