A reliable Wi-Fi experience is undeniably one of most important sought after guest amenities, so much so that it is now referred to more often as a necessity or a commodity. Author and hospitality IT consultant, Jeremy Rock, sheds more light on Internet as both an amenity and necessity in his Hospitality Upgrade article, Internet Access – It Better Work!
As the number of users and devices connecting to the Internet continue to increase managing bandwidth has become critical to the guest experience. The need for management is changing the dynamic of how hotel networks are engineered, deployed, and supported. In most cases hotels are not equipped to install and support guest Internet themselves; the management of increasing and emerging technology has simply become too complex.
Over the last few years, approximations of devices per room were about 2 to 3, but Rock says new studies indicate up to 7 or 8 devices in a room. Hotels need to reengineer networks to accommodate new demand and changing trends. Rock’s findings note luxury and high-end hotels are delivering more bandwidth to guests and the majority charge for additional bandwidth use with tiered pricing models. Upscale property networks tend to be more complex because they converge everything from entertainment systems to in-room automation to door lock systems on the same network. Complexity and difficulty include:
- Designing segmented networks that are PCI compliant
- Managing multiple network connections on multiple devices
- Fair and reliable bandwidth allocation
In addition to these challenges, the industry is moving towards new Wi-Fi standards (802.11 AC and Hotspot 2.0). The 802.11 AC standard is expected to operate much faster than the standard currently in the field. Apple products are first to report they will be equipping Macbooks with this new standard; we should begin to see effects in the next 12 months.
Hotspot 2.0 is an initiative to allow mobile devices to automatically and seamlessly connect to home networks no matter where the user is. Mobile devices with Hotspot 2.0 are already emerging in the marketplace and properties should keep on top of the movement and how it will impact their networks.
Internet will continue to be a complaint of guests as long as the pace of guest-facing technology grows faster than the ability to deploy infrastructure to support it. If hospitality is going to meet or exceed guest expectations, we must aim to address the issue now.