Every time I travel whether it’s on vacation or for business I ask myself two questions, one, will the hotel Wi-Fi be free and two, will it be any good? Even when I’ve read reviews online, I’m still left with some uncertainty about what kind of wireless experience I’ll have. The frustrating part about it all is that hotel Wi-Fi doesn’t have to be terrible. If hotels would simply follow some simple best practices every guest could have an amazing hotel wireless experience.
Here are 6 simple rules to give your guests exactly what they expect and want: fast, free, reliable, secure Wi-Fi.
Rule 1: It Starts with Expectations
Let’s face it, providing your guests with free wireless access isn’t a want or “nice to have” anymore it’s a necessity. Guests today have grown to expect Wi-Fi access pretty much everywhere else in their lives especially when staying in hotels. Think about why your guests are there, what do you think they would want, try and put yourself in their shoes.
This will help not only drive first-time guests to stay in your hotel but will more importantly result in having more return guests, which is a huge impact on your bottom line.
Word of mouth is always a critical factor for hotels but in today’s society hotels need reviews. Having positive online reviews can play a significant role in your bottom line as well. Just look at these three stats from a study by TrustYou.com and NYU:
- Travelers are 3.9 times more likely to stay at a hotel with higher reviews
- Travelers are more likely to choose a hotel with a higher price simply because of having higher review scores
- 76% of hotel guests said they are willing to pay more money for a hotel with higher review scores
Rule 2: 2.4GHz or 5GHz, What do you do?
When you think about which frequency to focus on it should be a simple answer, 5GHz. Why?
The 2.4GHz frequency is like a congested highway without enough lanes to support the amount of traffic, thus making it very hard to design around. All kinds of different tech are using it, from portable phones and Bluetooth, to microwave ovens; they all have the ability to use the 2.4GHz band. The final problem is that it only offers three channels or in our analogy, lanes.
The better solution is to optimize and design your hotel wireless network for 5GHz. Here’s why:
- Smaller more controlled coverage patterns around your APs
- More available channels
- Stronger signal that works over a smaller range
- Better ability to have frequency reuse
Remember to not leave your 2.4GHz radios on as this can lead to CCI within the 2.4GHz frequency.
Suggested Reading - "How Many Users Can Connect to an 802.11ac Wireless Access Point?"
Rule 3: AP Location
This is one of the most common issues we see in poorly designed and deployed hotel Wi-Fi networks. Your focus should always be on “what’s best for the customer” not what’s most convenient for you. Here are some good rules to keep in mind when installing your access points:
- Line-of-sight is always your best option
- Keep the fewest amounts of RF reflectors and attenuators between your devices/users and your AP's as possible.
- Never place your access points above the ceiling
- Try to avoid ductwork as this can cause inconsistent RF signal
Rule 4: Hallways are not your friend
We now get to hallways. It’s such an important topic from the rest of AP location mentioned above that it needs its own section.
It’s critical to avoid putting your access points in hallways at all costs. While this makes your life easier (in the short-term) this definitely doesn’t work for your customer's benefit. The solution is to put your AP’s in the rooms themselves, why? It’s simple; this is where your guests are most of the time while staying at a hotel.
Rule 5: More Bandwidth Please
There are many things inside of the hospitality environment that cost money: front desk staff, elevators, pools, complimentary breakfast, and of course Wi-Fi. The problem is, most hotels don’t want to spend the money.
Why is this a problem?
The biggest reason is simple, guests want Wi-Fi. They want fast, reliable and secure wireless access more than any other amenity available. So why aren’t hotels giving it to them?
You should look at wireless as a utility, just as you do with electricity and water. How happy would your guests be if you didn't offer water, or at best it didn't work very well? So it should be no different today when it comes to offering reliable hotel wifi.
Rule 6: Capacity is not about the number of AP’s
The idea that more capacity comes from having more access points without a doubt has to have come from wireless consultants or vendors who frankly just don’t know what they’re doing.
This notion is strictly to sell you more than you need without care for how it will actually affect your Wi-Fi network.
It comes down to your specific environment and your wireless network design. Having too many AP’s can actually lower your throughput or what we call being over-engineered. You can obviously also have issues from being under-engineered as well.
The Wi-Fi engineering process is very challenging, it takes experience and a lot of know how to get it right the first time. So before you do anything else, invest your money into a proper wireless network design.
Suggested Reading - "How to Design Wireless Networks for Capacity [Whiteboard Video]"
The results and benefits from quality planning are far reaching, not only will it save you money by allowing you to deploy what you actually need, but it will also make you more money by creating a memorable experience your customers will want to come back to again and again. Have you ever considered a tiered approach?
Pro Tip: If placing your AP’s in your hallways is recommended to you, our advice would be to run.
At SecurEdge, we deliver affordable, robust, and secure wireless platforms – it’s all we do. If you have any questions about your hotel's Wi-Fi performance or would like to discuss an upcoming project, please contact us here.