WiFi: Invisible but Necessary Design

WiFi has become a top amenity demanded by hotel guests, but simultaneously receives many complaints on online travel agency websites. Hotel Internet Services, based in Palm Harbor, FL and Simi Valley, CA, offers its perspective on one of the most requested amenities.

“The first thing a guest does after checking in is go online. Guests make decisions on their hotel choices based on WiFi,” said Gary Patrick, president of Hotel Internet Services. “WiFi has become plumbing—a utility. And just like you wouldn’t put up with low water pressure in the shower, guests do not want unreliable WiFi.”

Founded in 2003, Hotel Internet Services is a provider of secure wired and wireless Internet services, video-on-demand, IPTV and 24×7 support services, as well as meeting and convention services for hotels and resorts. The company utilizes equipment such as Ruckus Wireless and FUSION Gateway, which is installed by experienced installers.

“When we first started, guests were still using hotspot locations and many hotels, casinos and timeshares did not still have facility-wide WiFi,” said Patrick. “Then, the guests started demanding WiFi in their rooms. Many of those properties then decided they should make the move to providing the WiFi in the guestrooms as well.” 

The majority of traffic on the Hotel Internet Services networks has been mobile devices, accounting for more than 70%. This means that the WIFI networks installed must be able to handle these smaller devices. “You must install more equipment beforehand to ensure tight 2.4 and 5 ghz coverage so these mobile devices are able to be connected and stay connected,” said Patrick. 

Hotel Internet Services also noted that during the past four to five years, streaming personal content on these mobile devices have become commonplace. “Our hotel clients have had to add bandwidth many times these past few years to serve the Internet bandwidth thirst of their guests,” said Patrick. “Currently, we are replacing many of the past networks with the latest 802.11 AC technology.” 

Additionally, guests want to stream their own subscribed media rather than just watch the hotel in-room entertainment, according to Patrick. They want to watch Netflix, listen to Pandora, chat on Facebook, etc. Hotel Internet Services’ new BeyondTV streaming media player addresses that need for the hospitality industry.  

One of the most common mistakes that hoteliers have recently made regarding WiFi is taking the lowest bid, according to Patrick. “While cheaper may seem better, we have had so many customers come to us needing to replace their WiFi networks only after having it installed for one to two years,” he said. 

He added, “They did not use enterprise-grade equipment or plan for the multiple devices their guests travel with now. Now, they have to augment what they have or completely redo their systems. Doing it right the first time by a company that has installed hundreds of properties and understands the trends of hospitality is advised.” 

Aside from offering high-speed guestroom connectivity, Hotel Internet Services approaches the connectivity needs of meetings and event spaces in a similar manner. “Guests are impacted negatively if there is not enough speed or poor connectivity in meeting spaces as they would be in their guestroom,” said Patrick. “The WiFi must be everywhere in the hotel.”

—Matthew Marin