Testing and Reporting on Hotel Wi-Fi – EgyptAugust 5, 2015 Leave your thoughts
It has been almost a year since my colleague, Gregg, travelled to the island of Mauritius in order to report back on the state of hotel Wi-Fi in the Indian Ocean – there may have been another reason for the trip…I’m not entirely sure…?
This time it was my turn to ‘take the bullet’ and pack my bag for sunnier climes in the name of hotel Wi-Fi research – there also may have been an ulterior motive for my trip to Egypt, it’s open to debate.
A lack of Escape
It is clear from countless surveys and industry reports that staying in-touch with family and friends, as well as sharing holiday snaps (showing off) and checking the odd work email are all important to the modern traveller. A vacation is no longer a means of escape; or so it would seem.
Checking in and Logging on
After a long day of travelling – delayed flights and all the rest of it – my partner (heavily pregnant) and I wearily arrived at our hotel. At check-in we were informed that Wi-Fi was available throughout the grounds of the hotel complex – ‘great’, I thought, somewhat sceptically! We were asked how many Wi-Fi- enabled devices we would be using and were then shown to our room where we wasted no time in slipping into a temporary coma.
The following morning we awoke early, feeling entirely more human, and set about logging onto the Wi-Fi in order to send the obligatory ‘safe arrival’ messages to our families.
Many hotels operate a ‘two-tiered’ Wi-Fi set-up, in which guest Wi-Fi is available to all guests in the hotel lobby and in addition can be accessed in the rooms for a fee. As I mentioned above, this was not the case here as the receptionist informed us that the Wi-Fi could be accessed throughout.
From the comfort of our room, we opened up the ‘settings’ icon on our devices and connected to the SSID; after a short while we connected to the internet (well, we received an IP address) – all good so far. However, trying to browse the internet was nothing short of painful; pages were extremely slow to load and any video content I attempted to view would continuously buffer. After five minutes or so we gave up!
Not a great encounter. My scepticism was justified!
A Great Choice of Hardware
Because I am a self-confessed Wi-Fi nerd, I am not totally ashamed to admit that wherever I go – even when I am supposed to be relaxing – I like to peer up at ceilings in order to locate the access points used within various establishments.
My partner and I went for a short walk to see what the hotel resort had to offer and, among other things, I found that Aruba Networks Access Points were being used, which was a good sign; we work with Aruba kit every day and it really is a perfect fit for this kind of hospitality deployment.
Any wireless solution one deploys, irrespective of the environment, must be ‘spec’d’ correctly in order to ensure the best performance is achieved and that the equipment is used to its full capability. In this particular hotel Wi-Fi deployment the construction of the apartments (the materials used, wall thickness etc.), alongside the location of the access points would need to be considered to achieve the coverage and performance we all might expect.
I know that a holiday is supposed to be a time to relax and to enjoy time with friends and family but, we all live fast paced, connected, lives and as a result we have come to expect wireless networks to perform as they might at home or at work.
Misleading but not Disingenuous…
My point here is that, although what the hotel staff claimed – ‘Wi-Fi is available throughout’ – is not entirely inaccurate, it is somewhat misleading.
We may have had a Wi-Fi SIGNAL throughout the resort but we didn’t have a great deal of Internet CONNECTIVITY. I struggled to send emails, view video content and even standard web-pages – not a great customer experience, I’m sure you’d agree.
The solution to this all-too-common hotel Wi-Fi problem is a simple one, but is not always what proprietors want to hear. In my example, doubling the number of wireless access points would provide a far better end-user experience and would extend the coverage past the high-density communal areas and into the guest rooms.
Of course, this solution does come at a cost – at least initially – but the return of that investment, creating happy customers as opposed to frustrated ones, is surely worth it? A small charge could even be applied to cover this cost should the cap-ex be deemed too much. Research shows that the majority of hotel guests will happily pay extra for W-Fi usage, providing that it is not too high ($2.99 is the ceiling, apparently).
The Ensign Hotel Wi-Fi Mantra
It seems that as our appetite for rapid wireless connectivity grows, hotels and other establishments from with the hospitality sector are beginning to get the message. A recent study found that 31% of hotel guests consider 1 Mbps to be the minimum acceptable speed, whereas 29% went a step further, claiming that 1.5 Mbps was the benchmark.
Whatever the speed, our hotel Wi-Fi mantra still appears to ring true; No Wi-Fi is better than bad Wi-Fi.
Leading a customer on with promises of ubiquitous coverage will only cause irritation if the experience is poor. In a hyper-competitive industry, it’s these fine lines that can really make the difference.
*if you are in the market for business-grade hotel Wi-Fi you might like to have a look at the Aruba AP-103H, which has been specifically designed to cope with the Wi-Fi demands of the hospitality sector.