In our previous blog, we discussed Why WiFi is crucial in Hotels/resorts and Challenges in Meeting Customer Expectations.
In this blog, we will dive into
- What to avoid when planning your Hotel WiFi network
- Important factors to consider while planning the network; and
- How to confirm that the deployment will meet guests’ expectations?
Do Not Do These
1. Ignore Security
To implement the WiFi network quickly and cheaply, some hotel owners consider cutting down access protection i.e. they provide open access to everyone. It is definitely true that the login process is a point of friction, but open access is a bad idea for many reasons:
- It’s inherently insecure. You risk your brand reputation if your guests’ information is hacked
- Log-in portal provides multiple monetization options – you miss those
- It allows access not only to your guests but also to others, results in high bandwidth consumption from people who do not give you business
2. Not understanding guests’ expectations
In the first part of our blog Wifi in hotels, we discussed in great detail about guests’ expectations throughout their stay in a hotel. Do not make a mistake of ignoring your guests’ needs. Without a detailed analysis of your guests’ usage patterns, you can not plan a network that will serve the purpose. Understand the data and know when the peaks of data demand occur, type of applications your guests are accessing and ensure your wifi service is tuned to these patterns.
3. Planning for Today
A decade ago, we never expected that WiFi would change our lives the way it has. Over a period of time, the number of wifi devices increased exponentially. Guest WiFi usage will not decline anytime soon as the number of connected devices is expected to increase drastically. According to BI Intelligence Estimates, usage of connected devices increase as shown in the picture below. So, planning a network for yesterday or today is not advisable. Plan your network for next phase of growth. Expect capacity requirements to double in 3 years.
4. Wrong Promises on Website
Some hotels advertise Free WiFi on their website. But in reality, it might not be free in all scenarios. There might be hidden charges for:
- Using more connected devices
- Exceeding Bandwidth limitations
- Using Wifi in the rooms
When you state Free WiFi, guests believe that it’s free across the hotel at all times. If you charge for the same for different usage levels or at some locations, then it creates a dissatisfaction among guests and leads to bad reviews. Be transparent in communicating with your guests about all applicable charges.
5. Thinking Installation is ALL
Never assume that once your network is installed, you are done. Guest usage patterns will be changing every day based on guest profile, occupancy, events being held in your hotel and more. Validate the network for various scenarios. Monitor the network at all times for bandwidth requirements, service interruptions, meeting user expectations etc. Keep an eye on the latest and upcoming trends in the technology and prepare yourself to upgrade the network every 3 to 5 years based on your requirement.
Factors to consider while deploying a network
1. Capacity Planning
Planning and designing a network needs clear understanding and projections about:
- Bandwidth requirement
- Number of devices accessing the network during peak hours
- Number of user sessions per hour
- Length of each session
- Range of applications from video streaming to web browsing
Considering these factors, plan for channels to avoid interference (adjacent & co-channel). Choose the 5 GHz band over 2.4 GHz as 2.4 GHz band is crowded with other devices like Bluetooth, Microwave ovens, portable phones and more. Moreover, in 2.4GHz you can use only 20 MHz channel bandwidth. But for 5 GHz band, you can use, 40 MHz, 80 MHz, 160MHz channel bandwidth as well. Why not offer higher data rates?
Once you deploy the network, make sure that you validate the network for the planned capacity.
2. DFS Channels
Most of the devices are now able to use all the DFS channels. Plan the network to utilize all the resources. Ensure that your network devices are able to switch the channel quickly without service failure as and when required.
3. Low data rates
We have tested the performance of a network with a mix of low end and high-end devices. Low data rate transmitting devices will slow down other devices as well & degrade the performance of a network. Turning OFF the low data rates and not allowing 802.11b devices result in high throughput. Test the network for mixed clients and ensure that you are designed for performance
4. SNR Vs RSSI
Just having high RSSI is not sufficient if there is significant noise. SNR should be considered in such scenarios. Signal To Noise Ratio (SNR) is the difference between received Signal and the ambient noise floor. Higher the SNR, higher the potential data rates. When SNR drops, client devices receive errors or timeouts, and result in low data rates.
5. Enterprise-grade APs
Choose the AP based on your requirement. Though most of the vendors support latest technology 802.11ac and promise Gig speeds, few applications might not work as expected. Few APs support larger number of clients for all the applications and few won’t. Don’t just go by the specs of the Access Point. Use your understanding of your guests’ needs to test the access point performance against requirement & choose right access point.
6. Captive Portal Logins
Though none of your guests like to enter their information before connecting to the internet, a captive portal is necessary to authenticate and provide secure access to guests. It also connects them to your brand.
7. Connections & Disconnections
Some guests might log in to the network and some might log off from the network simultaneously. When there are transient users at scale, is your network capable of handling the scenario without any trouble?
Guests expect seamless WiFi in a hotel. Wifi user experience should be same across the hotel even when the guests move from one location to another. It shouldn’t be a case of NO WIFI on the way to the room from lobby, or room to gym, or gym to pool.
Validate Your WiFi Network
WiFi becomes a part of our everyday lives. We often use one or more WiFi devices all the time everywhere. When it comes to your Hotel WiFi, how do you know that your network meets expectations at all loads? Will you be proactive & validate your network before your guest complains or you react upon complaining and then solve the network issues?
If guest satisfaction is your TOP priority, ACT before your customer faces an issue. SWAT WiCheck is the BEST tool available in the market to VALIDATE a WiFi network under real-world user behavior at scale. WiCheck is a multi-client simulator with small form factor, easy to use interface, and built-in scripting and reporting engines in a 12 lbs (5.5 kgs) box. With WiCheck you can:
- Emulate 100s of wireless clients (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac)
- Run real applications – Facebook, Twitter, Video Streaming, Skype For Business & more
- Test DFS channels
- Validate various real-world scenarios with mixed clients & and with only high/low data rate transmitting devices.
- Scale & load test for long durations (a few days to weeks to months)
- Check connection & disconnection times at various loads
- Measure SNR & RSSI at each level
- Check your network capability for Roaming
- Test reliability of your network for various security standards along with captive portal at scale
Best Hotel WiFi Brings Huge Revenues
Think WiFi as an investment rather than a cost just to meet the demand. A secure, fast and reliable wifi could fetch you more repeat customers, build brand reputation, monetize your WiFi with location based services, advertisements and more. Plan for a great network that meets your guests expectations by considering the factors impact network performance.
WiFi can be a revenue driver only when you provide best WiFi Experience. Validating your network end to end with all possible real-world scenarios and ensuring the expected quality of service will guarantee user satisfaction. Doing this is easy now with SWAT WiCheck. Reach out to us to discuss your challenges and we will help you define the best approach to guaranteed network experience.