Why old wi-fi network design rules no longer apply to hotels

Hotels must understand that their guests view reliable Wi-Fi as a basic requirement. A stable, powerful network is essential for accommodation providers to thrive in the face of disruptors such as Airbnb.

A wireless network in a hotel or B&B is an unseen, but vital cornerstone of the overall stay experience. Those hospitality businesses that don’t respond to the needs of their increasingly connected customers, are creating problems for themselves, especially If that experience translates into negative reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor, it amplifies the problem and could reduce the number of bookings at the hotel.

A fast, reliable and secure Wi-Fi network is vital, but to get it right requires a custom solution that is fit for purpose. It starts with the right design and choice of technology, fundamentals for ensuring a painless installation, seamless management from anywhere, and built-in flexibility to meet peak demands.

Guests expect to be able to connect their multitude of devices to a reliable, high-speed hotel network. As each customer checks in, they quickly make their presence felt on the accommodation’s local network by connecting their laptops, phones, tablets, smartwatches, games consoles and smart speakers – a list of technology that grows year on year.

Hotels’ own Wi-Fi demands are also increasing as they look to add services like mobile self-check in or guest apps or in-room voice-activated assistants. The Hilton and Marriott hotel chains have already began experimenting with implementing IoT (Internet of Things) technology such as voice activated curtains and thermostats.

It’s no surprise then that the 2018 Technology Lodging Study concluded that the hospitality industry will need to come to terms with a busier ecosystem of network requirements from both their clientele and in-house services as time goes on.[1]

But despite the growing reliance on wireless networks, incumbent hotels, pubs and B&Bs shouldn’t face this transformation as a problem, but as an opportunity. The Study also asserts that technology plays a vital role in understanding the guest, and tailored services inspires loyalty and encourages return stays. A real competitive advantage can be gained by utilising technology, empowering hotels and their guests alike. This, however, requires a network designed and built for mobility, security and analytics.

A responsive, intelligent and scalable wireless network solution starts with an in-depth site survey. From a design perspective, we at Hutchinson Networks take customer requirements and deliver fit for purpose wireless solutions to meet those conditions. The wireless network design must always gauge interference and provide seamless connectivity.

A comprehensive site survey can reveal hidden spots of poor coverage or sources of interference that can cause so much grief to guests and their devices. And naturally, businesses with multiple sites usually find that each site will have its own unique challenges.

The challenge is building a network that can support and respond to the changing demands of both consumers and technology. A network of legacy systems retrofitted to support new connectivity wants can pose difficulties and risks to incumbent hotels in particular.

For example, the stopgap solution of adding more and more Wi-Fi access points to boost signal strength has never been a viable solution to the growing speed and bandwidth demands of hotel Wi-Fi.

Another erroneous practice all-too-frequently carried out by suppliers is placing wireless access points in hotel corridors, a mistake which can severely impact wireless performance as the signal struggles through thick load-bearing walls and bathroom tiles.

In this regard, Hutchinson Networks, as a Cisco Meraki partner, provides a solution designed specifically for the hospitality industry.

For example, Meraki irons out challenges of signal attenuation design as access points are mounted inside hotel rooms, therefore closer to guests and their devices – meaning less interference and better performance.

Meraki also solves issues surrounding multi-site hotel chains that struggle to gain oversight of their network-at-large. A complete Cloud-based solution such as Meraki can roll typical networking assets – firewalls, switches, access points and security cameras – into one solution, managed from a centralised dashboard.

Set-up at specific sites is straightforward because the hardware is pre-configured, meaning once on-site it’s a simple matter of ‘plug-and-play’ to get the kit live. Single-view oversight also means that that staff can quickly respond to and resolve network issues wherever and whenever they arise.

Naturally, hotels (regardless of the number of sites) are looking to improve the overall experience of their guests and build brand loyalty. An intelligent wireless network also presents more opportunities for a seamless guest experience, including streaming, voice-activated in-room concierge services, and in-room IoT control for music, blinds, lighting and temperature.

Using cloud-based analytics, hotels can also monetise opportunities through intelligent guest analysis. These methods include rewarding loyal visitors or offering value-added services. Beacons – placed in specific areas of the hotel and its resort – could also be used to trigger events such as a discount offers for a hotel spa when a guest walks past, for example.

A recent research paper published by advisory company Gartner, revealed its top predictions surrounding technological innovation in 2018 and beyond. Gartner asserts that technological disruption is outpacing incumbent organisations, and to continue to thrive businesses must become their own self-disruptors and address digital challenges.[2]

The failure to respond could negatively impact businesses as the demands of guests for ubiquitous connectivity grow year on year.

The cost of providing hotel Wi-Fi networks needs to be weighed against the cost of not doing enough in the right areas to maximise the opportunities of technology innovation. See more at https://www.hutchinsonnetworks.com

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Hotel operators with multi-site premises need a rigorous site survey to create a customised, fit-for-purpose Wi-Fi plan of action.
  • A single pane of glass dashboard for provides visibility and management of the entire network.
  • Future-proof Wi-Fi networks with a scalable, responsive system that can adapt to increasing guest demands and future business expansion.
  • Create a true value-add premium Wi-Fi experience, avoid missed expectations and potential for poor guest reviews and negative effect on the bottom line.