In the hospitality sector, Wi-Fi for guests is no longer a luxury but a necessity. When choosing holiday destinations, more travellers are making Wi-Fi a part of the decision-making process.
Equally important beyond having guest Wi-Fi, is ensuring the reliability of that connection. According to Hospitality Technology, fast, reliable Wi-Fi is so desirable that an estimated 80 per cent of guests won’t return to a hotel that delivers a bad technology experience. With that in mind, hotel management is always considering how they can prepare for seamless wireless connectivity.
Figure out guest expectations before designing the network
First, it’s important to recognise that when checking into a hotel, different travellers have different expectations of Wi-Fi access. The business traveller needs Wi-Fi to be completed while on the road, while the holidaymaker uses Wi-Fi to not only upload photos and videos from their day out at nearby tourist traps, but to also figure out where to visit the next day.
At the end of the day, however, your guests (as well as the numerous devices that typically come with) expect fast and reliable access to the internet. The network should be able to accommodate access to numerous different devices that aren’t necessarily owned by the hotel (BYOD), while also ensuring sufficiently high data rates to all connected devices in an optimal manner.
Next, hoteliers should consider the types of applications in play, such as are guests streaming video and music from services like Netflix and Spotify? Are they spending time on social networks and apps, or getting down to business with email and calls on Skype? Do you have sufficient bandwidth to spare during times of peak demand, such as when a business conference is being held on the premises?
Knowing your guests’ requirements and expectations is essential, and this understanding can enable hoteliers to create an experience that exceeds guest expectations.
Can your network grow with an eye to the future?
When designing your network to accommodate all the above, it’s important to ensure that you put the right types of technology in place. That can not only let your keep your guests today happy, but also to ensure that your guests of the future will be happy as well.
Instead of installing a bunch of APs, getting the hotel network design done right can also let you save on the costs associated with cabling and installation. Smarter AP placement can not only mean maximised throughput with fewer APs, but ultimately the higher data rates mean better performance, which leads to happier and more productive guests.
However, at the speed that technology progresses today, and given that wireless systems can be expensive to deploy and maintain, hotels are consistently challenged to provide best-in-class service year after year.
Hotels have transitioned through many Wi-Fi standards and advances: 802.11b to 11g, 11g to 11n, 11n to 11ac and eventually placing more emphasis on 5 GHz over 2.4 GHz. The next big Wi-Fi protocol update, 802.11ax, hits the market in 2018, and will be able to achieve more in the same spectrum and coverage area.
While advances in WiFi protocols should allow network engineers to swap out AP endpoints, it’s important to remember that having the correct cabling media, power sources, design and architecture are critical. These cables should provide greater power to support higher-capability switches down the road, giving hotels opportunity to upgrade without having to retool their cable foundation remotely.
A clean bed and mint on the pillow are no longer enough, as hoteliers are finding new ways of going above and beyond, whether it is shorter check-in times, additional in-room amenities, or personalized promotions. Wi-Fi is becoming the fourth utility for hoteliers around the globe. Although some hotels can afford to offer unlimited amenities, it is key that they provide what all travellers are looking for: food, shelter, electricity, and reliable Wi-Fi. When people are on the go, they carry multiple devices; a phone, tablet, and laptop (and many others). They expect to connect seamlessly, especially when not at home. Hotels should provide wireless connectivity that delivers reliable service despite interference from neighbouring devices and high-density surges. Connecting with your guests to provide an unforgettable experience will help them come back.
Sudarshan Boosupalli, Country Head, Ruckus Networks India and SAARC