How to Build better Hotel Wi-Fi

Have you ever stayed in a hotel and the Wi-Fi wasn't great? I'll bet the answer is an unqualified yes.

I've travelled quite a lot for work, which has given me plenty of opportunity to sample the delights of hotel Wi-Fi. It can be a bit of an inconvenience when you're travelling and you can't access your email - when you need to work and have some urgent emails or remote work to do it can be a real problem.

The Average Hotel Wi-Fi Experience

My experience has been that it's pretty patchy and drops out a lot. And often you're paying a pretty high premium to use the hotel Wi-Fi, adding to the irritation.

If you're paying a premium for the service, surely they should invest in the best equipment and configuration. 

Hotel Wi-Fi could delight and really make to want to stay at that hotel again - but why does it so often miss the spot?

Hotel Wi-Fi Not Working Blog


Reasons Hotel Wi-Fi is Poor

I think from what I've observed, there are a number of reasons that Hotel Wi-Fi doesn't perform that well:

  • Expense: This has to be high up the list on the reason for not deploying more APs, designing the network properly or buying enterprise grade equipment
  • Difficulty with Cabling: Also high up the list – there’s cabling to the TV point typically, but not in the hallways and other places that would be good locations to install an access point
  • Enough APs: One of the main reasons for the patchy coverage and devices dropping out – there’s just not enough APs!
  • Poor Design: Using proper RF predictive surveys and onsite surveys ensures that the coverage is even and predictable service
  • Complex Sign up: You just want it to be easy to sign up once you're in your room.. and sometimes it most definitely isn't!

If these are the issues and the common reasons that hotels don't upgrade their Wi-Fi, what are the solutions? Let's take a look.


How to Improve Hotel Wi-Fi

To overcome the coverage issues, one hotel I stayed at had installed a home brand AP in each room. It's one strategy to ensure coverage, but has the drawbacks of:

Free Hotel Wi-Fi image
  • Not being Centrally controlled and Managed: Each AP is autonomous, so you can end up with overlapping signals from APs (access points) the network not operating as a whole
  • Correct AP Density: Particularly important to take into account the devices the guest use - and the fact we all carry around more devices these days.
  • Correct Transmit Power: The Wi-Fi and the Cinema Story explains about the right right transmit power that's needed to make all these devices work properly.

There's no easy way around providing good Wi-Fi coverage - you just have to have enough APs, and coverage has to be designed for the end devices you want to support.

The exact number of course is down to the design - many hotels may well have bought from the cheapest vendor, using the minimum number of APs - it's a short sighted approach though, as the coverage is poor and the customers are frustrated by the experience.

Our Top 8 Secrets to Great Wi-Fi eBook might be of interest here - we cover a bunch of the common Wi-Fi issues and mistakes in there. Wi-Fi design is complex - getting RF right, as well an ensuring the relevant services you want to deploy all work as you hope they will is not an easy task.

If you're interested in a bit more reading around the typical things that affect Wi-Fi, have a read of the 30 Technical Wi-Fi Thoughts, but George Stefanick.


Hotel Wi-Fi: Multi service Network

If done properly, you can use the same network for multiple services - if the hotel has paid for the deployment of all those APs, you can get some added value from them.

Staff can use Wi-Fi phones for both communication and paging. How about some location tracking to know where the cleaning or security staff are located, or to be able to track an asset. Ability to use task management software, coupled with knowing the location of key assets has a lot of opportunity to improve hotel operations.

Hotel Room Wi-Fi


Premium Hotel Wi-Fi

Premium hotel Wi-Fi can mean a few different things, but typically means you'll get higher download speeds, protected with Quality of Service to ensure the experience is a good one.

More modern hotels have Wi-Fi features that let you connect and stream your own Netflix or music - these are the hotels that are a 'home from home' and are really excelling in keeping their customers happy and loyal.

There's a lot that can be value added, once the network is working correctly - however the base lesson is to use enough APs. Hotels have seen that customers vote with their feet, choosing a hotel with Wi-Fi above those without - the next upgrade hotels can offer is consistent Wi-Fi that works properly, with a good level of service for streaming.


How to Build Better Hotel Wi-Fi: Summary

The key point on how to build better hotel Wi-Fi, is to undertake RF design surveys. It's a simple point, but makes all the difference - guessing about the location of access points is the exact reason that so many hotels have such a poor experience.

It's becoming increasingly important for hotels too - the need to offer great Wi-Fi to customers is paramount: customers vote with their feet and Wi-Fi is one of those expectations that a lot of travellers have these days.

Hopefully this blog has provided some useful technical pointers - the business benefits of good Wi-Fi are clear though: a more loyal clientele who choose to stay in your hotel, because the Wi-Fi is good. 


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