Bring Your Own Wi-Fi: Should Hotels Compete... or Encourage?
Are cellular data services boon or bane to hoteliers?
By Bill Cune Vice President of Commercial Technology, Corning MobileAccess | May 27, 2012
Hotel Wi-Fi has ceased to be a differentiating service - guests consider it an "always available" utility, much like water in the tap or electricity. But Wi-Fi enabled devices are exploding, moving from just laptops to include netbooks, tablets, e-readers and a variety of smartphones, putting significant strain on hotel Wi-Fi networks and leading to a decrease in service quality and, in some cases, even availability. While some hotels now levy extra charges for multiple devices and higher Wi-Fi data speeds, guest satisfaction remains threatened.
To combat weak hotel Wi-Fi, guests have started bringing their own Wi-Fi enablers, devices that rely on 3G or 4G LTE cellular networks. While a great idea on paper, hotels often suffer from a lack of high quality cellular service, thanks to building designs that block RF signals and the growing demand for in-building cellular service. These challenges can be easily remedied but usually at a cost to the hotel.
For hoteliers, providing guests with the comforts of home is key to retaining current guests and guaranteeing future stays. From high-quality linens to fully-stocked kitchenettes to the latest and greatest TVs, attention is paid to every detail of the guest experience to make rooms feel "just like home." Except one: Internet connectivity.
While most hotels offer some form of hardwired broadband connection, this is rarely enough to suit average consumers, let alone hardworking business travelers. High-speed data access and wireless connectivity now rule the home, meaning that consumers are accustomed to having the Internet (and their favorite movies, important files, music, games and more) at their fingertips, no matter where they are. This translates into the fact that, if hotels truly want to offer all the comforts of home, they need to adopt a quality wireless standard as well, since the average guest no longer wants to be tethered to a hardwire.
But, wireless connectivity is no longer a single-player game. While most hotels have established wireless Internet connections - WiFi - more and more guests are turning to high-speed cellular networks to get their connectivity fix, essentially "bringing their own Wi-Fi" rather than using the hotel's. For many, it's faster, cheaper and more reliable.
But, what's the difference? And, what should hoteliers do in this situation - enforce their own networks or go with the cellular flow?