A leading Wi-Fi hot spot operator has rebuffed criticism of hotel broadband pricing, claiming the speed and security needs of business users mean higher costs are inevitable.
This week the 2007 edition of the Good Hotel Guide named and shamed UK hotels that charge what it believes are excessive prices for wireless Internet, citing examples as high as £20 for one day's access.
The guide claims that such fees are disproportionate to the cost of setting up and maintaining a network — it claimed a router cost under £150 and running costs were "virtually nil" — but Graeme Powell, European managing director for operator iBahn, has told ZDNet UK that it is "somewhat shortsighted" to state that setting up a wireless network in a hotel is cheap and needs no maintenance.
According to Powell, the cheaper routers employed in domestic use are not fast, flexible or secure enough for multiple users, particularly corporate users travelling on business.
"This need for a strong network is due to many hotel guests being business people connecting through to their corporate networks, an intrinsically different type of user to those in local coffee shops or at home," Powell said on Wednesday, adding that this kind of Wi-Fi access was "rarely free".
Powell said a Wi-Fi access point for business costs around £250, adding that it was "recommended to install one access point for every five or six rooms, to ensure strong signal strength and optimal performance". He also told ZDNet UK that the need for a Power Over Ethernet (POE) injector added an extra £50 per access point.
But Adam Raphael, editor of the Good Hotel Guide, insists that the cost of bedroom access was not the point.
"Corporate users may insist on having Wi-Fi access in their bedrooms and that obviously costs more to install — though not very much, under £1,000. But many hotel visitors would be perfectly content with having Wi-Fi access restricted to say the hotel's lounge or reception area. That facility in our judgement should be free," said Raphael.