Upgrading Hotel Networks for the Data Onslaught

By Doug Lodder Senior Vice President of Business Development, Boingo Wireless, Inc. | January 26, 2014

The "connected traveler" has more than just arrived – they've taken up permanent residency at hotels and businesses across the travel ribbon.

With the ever increasing proliferation of faster, brighter, lighter devices, and with more than two-thirds of Americans owning a smartphone and more than 40% owning a tablet, it's no longer a question of whether a guest will be toting a device – but how many.

In the past two years alone, the number of "Digital Elite" travelers who carry at least two devices has grown by more than 600%, according to a study by MMGY Global/Harrison Group. More than a quarter of Americans over the age of 14 are now what Deloitte calls "digital omnivores," meaning that they own the three primary portable digital devices: a laptop, smartphone and tablet.

Hoteliers and technology providers are quickly innovating to meet demand and seize opportunities to improve the guest experience via mobile. Major hotel chains are rolling our full-featured apps and services like mobile check-in. Want to pre-order room service, select music, or change the temperature of your guest room, all before you arrive? There's an app for that.

But while the opportunity for fostering guest loyalty and improving customer services via mobile are greater than ever, the use of multiple mobile devices for guest work, leisure and customer care place a heavy burden on hotel Wi-Fi networks, at times requiring costly upgrades.

To meet growing demand for connectivity, and manage costs and capacity, major hotels are complimenting their existing Wi-Fi networks with a Distributed Antenna System network. A Distributed Antenna System, or DAS, network consists of multiple strategically placed antennas that distribute cellular network coverage to provide more efficient management of wireless capacity in heavily trafficked areas, ensuring consistent, reliable cellular coverage for users.

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The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.