Managing Bandwidth: Should it be free or chargeable to the guest?
By Derek Wood Managing Director, Derek Wood Associates Ltd. | May 20, 2012
The two subjects are, in my mind, connected to each other, and I hope now to explain why.
The subject of whether or not to provide free wi-fi continues to be one of the topics of conversation here in the UK, and indeed across EMEA. However, it is becoming even more relevant with today's technology.
The well-known saying goes something like this "you don't get anything for nothing" well that's also quite true when you consider guest internet access. What you DO get for nothing is a usually a poor service. Why? Because there is little or no incentive for the hotelier to increase the bandwidth because he is getting no revenue from the provision of this service. The provision of High Speed Internet Access (HSIA) has merely become yet another cost centre.
I travel a lot and stay in far too many hotels, and I have learned many things from my travels, one which I should like to share with you now, and is this: There are many ways to really annoy your guests, but the top of the list is consistently... "give them a poor internet service" then see what happens. There is nothing more annoying than paying for 'High Speed' access and receiving speeds less than the old 'dial-up' connections! (for those of us old enough to remember dial-up). "But it's free in the coffee shops" I hear some people say – well, it's not free (I thinks it's included in the price of the coffee!), and in the main, it's certainly NOT a good service, there are many times especially when the coffee shop is full, you just cannot get on to the wi-fi system.
The prices of internet connections are not exactly plummeting just now (in fact in many countries they are increasing), and just when you think it can't get any worse – the sales of iPad and related 'tablet' and mobile devices are going through the roof, good news if you sell them, bad news if you provide wi-fi, because the wi-fi transmit/receive range on these devices is a lot less than with a laptop computer, which means you need more access points if you want the same coverage, which means more investment. Which is even worse news if you are giving the service away...
The majority of business travellers that I speak to would rather pay a nominal amount and receive an acceptable service, than pay nothing and get a poor service. I am also told that increasingly, the take-up of internet service in the hotel does not vary that much when the service is free to the take-up when the service is chargeable.
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