Creating the Ultimate Guest Wi-Fi Experience: 4 WLAN Design Tips Every Hotel Must Follow
Whether we’re traveling for business or on vacation, one of the first things that comes to mind when we arrive at our hotel/resort is, “I hope the Wi-Fi is good.” In fact, according to an article by USA Today, wireless connectivity is so much of a necessity we try to get online within 7 minutes of our arrival. We’re past the point of simply offering wireless access to your guests, now that access has to be fast, reliable and secure to properly satisfy their expectations.
In a recent study on trends that attract travelers to hotels, Trip Advisor found that 46% of guests require free “in-room” Wi-Fi, and 26% said they require a “super-fast” Wi-Fi connection, with 11% saying they are willing to pay for usage. That’s a huge influence on where guests are choosing to stay.
Whether it’s in your lobby, at the hotel bar, the pool or in their rooms, providing your guests with the type of hotel wifi experience they want/need will have a huge impact on your bottom-line.
Here are 4 WLAN design tips every hotel or resort needs to follow to deliver the ultimate guest Wi-Fi experience.
Your guests will conceivably will try to access the network from just about anywhere.
Whether I am in my room, the lobby, the gym, the hotel restaurant, even outside on the patio (pool or not), guests want to be able to connect and enjoy using the Wi-Fi at their leisure, so you have to make sure you design for it, starting with your particularly environment.
Your WLAN design should take into account the building materials, building design, ceiling heights etc and square footage.
Every change in the physical environment can impact your hotel’s wifi performance, and ultimately your guests experience.
Maybe your hotel has recently added on an outdoor patio, expanded a new conference room, or simply remodeled each room with aluminum mesh curtains, and it was only after construction that your guests began to complain about poor wifi performance.
Knowing the make-up of your environment and how each element affects the Wi-Fi is essential to creating a proper RF design.
Planning for the types of devices guests will be using is also critical to delivering an optimal hotel wifi experience.
Say you have a family of 4 staying in your hotel, chances are each of them has at LEAST one device capable of accessing your wireless network. But who are we kidding, most adults traveling will have between 1-3 devices, and if one of those kids is a teen there is no way they only have one mobile device on vacation- especially a family vacay.
That same family of four could have between 6-10 devices, which poses some serious challenges.
In order to give that family and all of your other guests the experience they want you have to know what types of devices are accessing your network and how many.
Coverage is easy to do but capacity is the real game-changer.
Capacity takes into account context when creating a proper WLAN design. Every device has a different performance profile with different requirements and behaviors that will all have a different impact on the hotel’s network.
If you don’t understand what’s being used to access your network or how many, then, I hate to break it to you-most likely some or most of your guests are in for a frustrating stay.
What types of applications do you plan on allowing your guests to run over your wireless network?
You could be a hotel that caters to mostly business travelers. Will you allow them to access their business applications on your wifi? Applications like Skype, FaceTime, Salesforce, email etc.
Maybe you’re more of a family oriented resort and your guests will be more apt to using social applications like Snap Chat, Instagram or streaming applications like HULU and YouTube.
Your business has to be able to separate what’s mission-critical and what’s recreational, in other words, using policies and enforcing those policies to properly prioritize specific applications over others.
Not only will this improve wifi performance but it will also help you provide better security by not allowing untrusted applications that might pose a threat to your network’s and your user’s security.
Where are your guests using the Wi-Fi the most, in their rooms, in the lobby, by the pool?
What you do know is they most likely aren’t sitting outside of their rooms accessing your network in the hallways.
If a wireless service provider or an IT consultant plans to place your access points in your hallways, I’d say this is a big red flag and you should probably find a new partner to work with.
It makes no sense to place your APs where your guests aren’t going to be, your guests want in room high-speed internet, so place them where it counts.
We should mention that while free hotel wireless access is great and your end-users will appreciate that; you can also look into other options such as tiered-services.
In this scenario your base access might be free but for more premium access (faster speeds) you charge a daily fee. This allows you to offer an enjoyable experience for everyone, including the hotel. It all comes down to knowing what’s best for your guests needs/wants and what makes sense for your business.
Your typical end-user is probably your guests. However, what about staff on the premises? How can your network differentiate between guests and staff accessing your Wi-Fi?
Using role-based access control you can set and enforce policies on what guests and staff have access to. You can assign a “role” (guest or staff) and based off those roles you can enforce pre-defined policies as to what that role can do and access.
You’ll need to have an integrated firewall. Next-generation firewalls supply you with the following:
Application visibility and application control
Simplifies security infrastructure
Instead of using and IP address it knows the device itself
Security needs to be the foundation of your wireless network. Using both RBAC and Next-gen firewalls, not only protects your hotels confidential information but your end-users as well.
Putting it all together
When you plan an event at your hotel you don’t just throw something together and hope for the best.
Your hotel’s WiFi design is no different. Working with an experienced wireless solutions provider can be the difference between happy guests and dissatisfied guests.
The latter of which no one in any industry wants!
Recently we outlined exactly what questions you’ll want to ask when choosing a wireless solutions provider to make sure you’re working with the right one, check out the video here.
If you have any questions about your hotel's Wi-Fi performance or would like to discuss an upcoming project, please contact us here.