Airport & Hotel WiFi Test: Part Two

Date October 9, 2014 Author Comments Leave your thoughts

 

Horses enjoy free hotel WiFi too.

Why is it that holidays require so much planning and preparation, and muster such excitement to warrant a ‘countdown’ weeks or even months before lift-off, yet on ones return they are forgotten almost the second rubber hits runway?

Apparently I went to Mauritius a month ago, although to say it’s a distant memory would be an understatement. The tan has all but faded and the Great British winter has begun, the only reminder of warmer climes is a fairly sizable figure on my credit card statement. Oh well…only 76 days until Christmas! *sigh*

Anyway, enough doom-and-gloom. You’ll be relieved to hear that – apart from having a wonderful time – I managed to drag myself from the cocktail bar to do a bit of WiFi nerd performance testing.

Previously

So, before my departure I wrote a blog about hotel and airport WiFi. I wondered if these networks would meet my expectations as a customer/traveller and whether or not gaining access would be as simple as they would have you believe.

Gatwick Airport WiFi

First up was the 45 minutes of complimentary guest WiFi at London’s Gatwick Airport. Before leaving home I checked out their website, which made the following claim: “[guests] can get 45 minutes free Wi-Fi at the airport – simply open your browser and connect to Gatwick FREE Wi-Fi.”

Easy, right? Well it started promisingly enough…

I opened my browser and was directed to the Boingo Hotspot login page where I dutifully followed the instructions. I was asked to create a username and password – which I managed without too much distress – and was then prompted to login.

Gatwick WiFi

Cue a lot of this…for a whole 30 minutes (the duration of my snack at Pret A Manger), at the end of which I gave up.

Gatwick Airport WiFi loading page

It would appear my attention span is better than I thought. It’s safe to say that at this point my experience was not a good one.

But Wait, There’s More

After a little retail therapy I stopped at Starbucks for a well-earned rest (CAKE) and…SUCCESS! Gatwick airport WiFi 3

Once I was up-and-running the WiFi performance was pretty good. General web-browsing was achieved without any incident, although video playback was a tad painful – not really a surprise in such a high density environment.

Location, Location, Location

The best advice I can give you – in life and in WiFi – is to choose your location wisely. It is worth noting that when I couldn’t log-on I was at the far end of the terminal, whereas later on I was fairly central. This could suggest that I was initially sat on the very edge of the wireless cell and then had – unknowingly – moved to an area with greater coverage.

So, it’s fair to say my thoughts on the WiFi at Gatwick were somewhat mixed. I’m certainly glad I didn’t pay for it.

Onwards to Mauritius…

Hotel WiFi

My hotel stated that “Free High Speed Internet” was available in the lobby in addition to a paid ‘Premium’ service, which extended around the pool, bars, restaurants and all of the rooms.

Keen to cut the well-formed ties with my mobile wherever possible, I didn’t opt for the paid WiFi so I can’t comment on its performance. I do however expect it would have been better than the complimentary lobby WiFi network.Ambre WiFi login

 

That is not to say that the free WiFi service was in any way bad, just that it had one major – and all too common – downfall; capacity, or lack thereof.

Hotels are well within their rights to advertise free WiFi, however any performance claims should often come with a proviso. The service was indeed free and certainly was not slow – here’s the kicker – assuming that you were one of only a few people making use of it at any one time.

More often though, hotel guests will congregate to make use of the free network at certain times of the day, causing a flood of requests and the WiFi network to wilt under the combined weight of boastful status updates and picture uploads of sandy vistas.

Cue a lot of buffering action (and not a lot of NFL action)…Slow NFL video loading.

Now I’m not complaining; far from it. The free WiFi was adequate enough for most general requirements – except at peak times – and that was all I needed. Anyone wanting to Facetime, Skype or watch ‘Corrie’ might well have been a bit disappointed though.

The Broken Promises of Hotel WiFi

As I said in my previous blog – and am considering having tattooed across my forehead – offering poor performing WiFi is far worse than offering no WiFi at all. Amidst the exponential growth in demand for hotel and guest WiFi services, this appears to be a mantra not shared by many in the hospitality sector; cost limitations all too often trump performance requirements.

However, as consumer expectations continue to rise as a result of faster connections both at home and on the move, the writing might well be on the wall for cheap and cheerful guest WiFi.

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Author Gregg Meade

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