Hotel operators: Free wi-fi is no longer an option

Hotel operators: Free wi-fi is no longer an option

Summary: It's hard to believe that many hotels still don't offer free wi-fi. Some don't have wi-fi at all, or have wi-fi that barely works at exorbitant rates.

Hotel desk

This weekend didn't start out according to plan. Instead of sitting in my condo, I am sitting in a nice hotel room. This unexpected trip, the result of a massive water leak, is undoubtedly the shortest in history. It involved a 50-foot walk from my apartment building to the hotel down the street.

I didn't have a choice of hotels given I simply needed a place to stay for a couple of days. But if I did have a chance to shop around as many business travellers do, the hotel's web site noting that "high-speed internet" is available in every room might have pulled me in.

Of course, the lack of the word "free" in that blurb tells the whole story. While the hotel does offer a free level of internet service, it's not very good. It hardly works at all.

That's why the hotel offers not one paid level of internet service but two. That's right, there's a two-tier internet service available at increasing cost. The most expensive is $20 per day, an exorbitant fee designed to grab the business traveller who can't be disconnected no matter the cost. It's probably going to be expensed to the company anyway.

The problem is, and frequent travellers have surely seen this too many times, paying the exorbitant fee doesn't guarantee fast connectivity. It sometimes doesn't guarantee consistent connectivity at all. That's the case here according to two guests in this hotel complaining about how bad the wi-fi is. They each paid the big bucks and then couldn't do much of anything.

That leaves each of them in the nasty limbo of having little or no service and no one to complain to. The employees at the front desk can't help, the internet service is contracted by a third party. There's a phone number for that but don't expect remote assistance to get the service to actually work. These guys were told to lump it in a nice way. Too many guests, blah, blah, blah.

Sadly, this is a common situation that frequent business travellers have to deal with. It can be a big problem as being connected is no longer an option in business, it's now expected. That's why savvy travellers use good, free connectivity as the main criteria for choosing a hotel. 

iPad tether
Bandwidth in hotel room using iPad mini as personal hotspot after foregoing abysmal hotel wi-fi.

They look for phrases on the hotel's web site like "free high-speed internet in each room" or "throughout the hotel". If it just says "high-speed internet" chances are it's only in the lobby or other common areas. Believe it or not there are still many hotels without connectivity in the hotel rooms.

That's not acceptable anymore as connectivity has become important to most everyone. Even those travelling on personal trips have tablets, phones, and Kindles to get online. Being in a hotel without any connectivity is like dropping into a void for lots of travellers.

So please, hotel operators, get wi-fi working well in all of your rooms. Make sure it's beefy enough to handle a full hotel. Blanket your entire establishment with it, and perhaps most importantly stop charging an arm and a leg for it. If you don't get your guests online with good speed and for free, you just might find repeat business dropping off. Connectivity is becoming very important to a large segment of the population and you'd better serve it up properly.

Topics: Mobility, Laptops, Tablets

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  • Like you said, this is my main criterion

    It distresses me that expensive hoity toity hotels charge a night what my 3G stick costs a month, and relatively inexpensive hotels have it free!

    To me, this is like charging extra for beds. I need to work while I travel.
    • This Practice Makes Me Furious

      Some of the most expensive hotels (where we go to continuing education programs) are $15-$25 A DAY when you are already paying exorbitant rates for the room; but then the big mid-level chains (Choice Hotels, LaQuinta, Best Western) are always free.
      • i use a clear solution that i take along

        Them I have unlimited dedicated internet wherever I go and am not exposed to insecure wireless networks.

        And it does cost me anything!

        Why bother with hotel networks at all.
        • Now internationally UK hotel internet service is the worst.

          Brazil's in totally insecure and full of malware.

          If Telefonica is involved in any way it simply won't work with a lot of sites ( specially in South America) and it will cost a ridiculous amount.
          • Re: Brazil's in totally insecure and full of malware.

            But the entire Internet is "totally insecure and full of malware". Or is this some Brazil-specific extra-insecurity? Extra-mal malware?
      • Why I Changed Brands

        I quit booking top-level chains for this reason. Expenses would pay for everything but unfortunately I have found you cannot pay for reliability. I cannot be disconnected. I have found that mid-level chains provide a much more reliable Wi-Fi service.

        Also if I check in before 6 and cannot connect reliably I complain, check right out, and am seldom charged. I take my chances on a second hotel. Of the dozen plus times I have done this I have never been disappointed. Several times I have just checked out the next morning and moved to another hotel. Again, I have never been disappointed in the change. I think most Wi-Fi systems work well. If not there is not hope so just move.
  • Cost Vs Return

    I think you are in the minority. As an IT support provider for quite a few smaller hotels and accommodation venues we find that you can spend huge amounts of money for a good quality wireless network throughout the hotel, only to find it almost never gets used. The reason: who in the heck doesn't have a mobile internet device or a mobile phone without a data pack these days?? No one except overseas tourists care if their hotel has wifi or not, as they have internet access in their pocket. There's my question for you, as someone who's blurb says you have been using mobile devices for 30 years. Why didn't you use your mobile device?
    • I have a stick and a phone

      But I need to run a lot of VDI sessions. I would eat it all up if I used it exclusively.

      I want wifi, and I will choose a hotel based on that. I suspect I, like the author, am not alone.
    • If you read his blog you would have noted the included graphic

      that indicated James did use (or had to resort to using) his own mobile device for internet service. What Mr. Kendrick wished to highlight in his blog was the apparent misleading hotel WiFi statements at the establishment Mr. Kendrick stayed at. IMO, James accomplished that in a very elegant manner.
      • read it, didnt look at the graphic

        my bad. I didn't really look at the graphic as it had nothing to do with the paragraph I was reading with it. I take back the question as to why he didn't use his mobile device. Also, (and this ties in with my second post) it would seem that if he was sitting in a hotel around here getting that speed from a mobile device, it would be ridiculously stupid not to be using his mobile device. Most of this city I'm in are limited to "ADSL Reach" speeds (ie, its ADSL2+ at the exchange, but you wont get ADSL2+ speeds, its just going to be a little better than ADSL1). We would be laughing if we got 35.93Mbps out of most of our connections.
        • Speed

          The speed of the ADSL is of course not the only bottleneck. Last summer I was at a hotel that had a different SSID for each floor. That hints of a design where there is no WLAN Controller at all, just tens of cheap AP's mounted on the walls and plugged in the network. WLAN is quite picky and it can be very difficult to maintain any level of quality if the network is not managed. What makes the situation even worse is if the wifi is so bad that the guests are setting their own access points. When in 2,4GHz there are only 3 'clean' channels, just one single managed system can consume all the good channels. Then all the other equipment will just interfere the network.

          From the hotel IT point of view, it would be preferred if all the guests would be encouraged to use the single, managed hotel wifi. Then you could have 2-3 tiers, as an example free access in lobby, cheap access with 4Mbps cap and better access with unlimited share of bandwidth. The bandwidth cap can be done with firewall policies so as addition to the AP's/radios, the hotel would just need to invest some 5,000$ to a proper WLAN controller.
          • What tears do you actually suggest?

            It is interesting how people that have NEVER done anything like this come out with numbers and suggest stuff out of thin air and do not do the math. 4Mbps cap for each device? For free? Wow!! Really and this only cost $5000? Can you give out actual places to buy this gear? Also are you offering to install it and check it for free?
            For instance, Where do you get that $5000 will get anything accomplish in a hotel? Also they thingk that the magic fairy will service this stuff when it goes bad? Also when the not so tech savvy guest have problems who is going to help them?
        • question

          I'm confused. What service or device was the author using to get such a high download speed?
          • question

    • I question this.

      I travel heavily (200+ days per year) and almost every hotel has free WiFi and they are all heavily used (based on discussions with the staff).
      • Hmm

        Try staying at a Hilton? Their WiFi is NOT free.
    • Must be the kind of hotels you represent.

      I don't know the smaller hotels which you are supporting, but they sure aren't the ones I go to (or maybe they are the ones where the wifi is bad). I use it at every hotel. My data plan gets used up quickly if I have to rely on it to support my laptop.
    • Country of origin

      One thing I did not think about when I posted was what country we are talking about here. In the US or UK, hotel wifi may be of use as the connections available to the premises might be a better option, so I partially take back my comments. I work in regional cities in NSW Australia, and our internet is not good quality, and often a mobile device is faster that the best speed a premises can get. (almost always limited to DSL) I think because of this, I'm finding almost all of my business clients will choose mobile internet for when they are on the road. From the hotel perspective, we can see the thousands of $ that will get spent on the equipment to make it available and give good coverage, and then very high monthly costs for the internet itself, which in itself is unreliable and slow anyways, as often the only option as mentioned before is ADSL. If you then try to make it a better option over a mobile device for data allowance and speed for each guest, it becomes ridiculously expensive to implement and run (try paying for a private fibre optic cable to be run and used just for the sake of guests using internet) The only way to justify this cost is obviously see a return from it, which just isn't going to happen from guests staying at the hotel alone, which leaves charging some stupid amount for its use, which no guest would pay. Once we get a better option than mobile internet made available to a premises, then the above blog becomes applicable.
    • mobile internet has both a datacap and bandwidth limitations.

      I travel 200+ days a year and will blacklist entire hotel chains for bad Internet I don't care if I have to pay but I need to least 50mbit or I leave
      • First world problem

        You must have a very limited choice if you can't live with less than 50 mbits.