Network design

Why the old Wi-Fi network design rules no longer apply to hotels

Hotels should be warned that guests now consider reliable Wi-Fi a basic requirement. A stable and strong network is essential for web hosts to thrive in the face of disruptors like Airbnb.

A wireless network in a hotel or B&B is an invisible but vital cornerstone of the overall stay experience. Businesses that fail to meet the needs of their increasingly connected customers could find themselves facing frustrated visitors. If the experience results in negative reviews posted on high traffic sites like TripAdvisor, Trivago, Expedia, and hotels.com, that magnifies the problem for many more potential customers.

A fast, reliable, and secure Wi-Fi network is vital, but getting it right requires a customized solution that fits the purpose. It starts with the right design and the right choice of technology, which means painless installation, seamless management from anywhere, and built-in flexibility to meet peak demands. The wrong approach – simply adding additional access points – can reduce performance by increasing interference and lead to competition between devices for airtime.

Customers expect to connect their multitude of devices to a reliable, high-speed hotel network. When every customer registers, they quickly make their presence felt on the local network by connecting their laptops, phones, tablets, smartwatches, game consoles and smart speakers – a list of technologies that grows year on year. in year.

Hotels’ own Wi-Fi demands are also increasing as they look to add services such as mobile self-check-in or guest apps, in-room voice-activated assistants such as the Amazon Echo, and in some hotels, you can now use your smartphone as your room key. Hilton and Marriott hotel chains are already experimenting with implementing IoT (Internet of Things) technology that will transform stay experiences in current and new rooms.

Beyond simple voice assistants, Hilton and Marriott ‘Labs’ study blinds, thermostats, televisions and switches connected to devices.

According to the Technology Lodging Study 2018, the hospitality industry will need to adapt to an ecosystem with more network requirements from its customer base and internal services over time.

But despite the growing dependence on wireless networks, hotels, pubs and guesthouses should not face this transformation as a problem, but as an opportunity. The Technology Lodging Study also affirms that technology plays a critical role in customer understanding and that tailoring services to individual customers inspires loyalty and encourages return stays. A real competitive advantage can be obtained by using technology, by empowering hotels and their customers. But it requires a network designed and built for mobility, security, and analytics.

To achieve these goals, the design and implementation of the wireless network must be based on industry best practices, which is at the heart of Hutchinson Networks’ approach.

In addition, technology is evolving at such a rapid rate that a wireless network that was adapted 5 years ago may no longer meet the needs of its customers today. But if you follow some of the best practice design principles in network planning, such as examining areas of low coverage through a full site survey followed by detailed predictive designs, then designing for a cost-effective upgrade that works within a hotel or location’s budget is what might be needed.

Cloud solutions

Sometimes, just by adjusting the configuration, optimizing the wireless environment reduces existing issues and improves overall performance and user experience.

The challenge is to build a network capable of supporting and responding to technological transformation. A network of legacy systems modernized to support new connectivity demands can pose countless challenges and risks. The interim solution of adding more and more Wi-Fi access points, for example, to increase signal strength has never been a viable solution to the growing demands for speed and bandwidth of Wi-Fi in consumers. hotels.

In the battle for bandwidth, another bad practice all too frequently practiced by Wi-Fi providers is placing wireless hotspots in hotel hallways. This can have a huge impact on wireless performance, as the signal has to pass through what is typically a load-bearing wall as well as a tiled bathroom.

In this regard, Hutchinson Networks, a Cisco Meraki partner, provides a solution designed specifically for the hospitality industry. Meraki eliminates the design challenges of signal attenuation and configures access points to be mounted inside hotel rooms, so closer to guests and their devices, which means less interference and better performance.

A responsive, intelligent, and scalable wireless network begins with the basics of a thorough site survey. From a design standpoint, we then take customer requirements and deliver purpose-built wireless solutions to meet those requirements. Wireless network design should always measure interference, both from neighboring networks (especially in built-up areas), as well as our own.

A full site survey can reveal hidden spots of poor coverage or sources of interference that are causing so much trouble for guests and their devices. And businesses with multiple locations typically find that each location will have its own unique challenges.

The solution to these endemic problems and multi-site scalability lies in the cloud. A complete cloud-based solution can consolidate typical network assets – firewalls, switches, access points and security cameras – into a single solution, managed from a centralized dashboard. The configuration is simple because the hardware is preconfigured and once on site, all you need is “plug-and-play” to install the kit and put it into service. Tight IT budgets, an acute problem among small establishments, can be explained by the fact that cloud-based solutions such as Cisco Meraki can be managed virtually and outsourced.

A hotel wireless network must extend to business travelers who need a reliable broadband connection via video conferencing and to vacationers who cannot live without gorging on Netflix. Flexibility and responsiveness cannot be underestimated in view of their importance, a necessity for a solid hotel network.

Hotels that expand or improve their infrastructure require a scalable solution that can allow the network to grow as new access points are needed and new value-added services are created.

The hotel industry does not sleep. Network support should be available 24/7. A key requirement of a cloud-based management system is that staff respond and resolve network issues quickly which are then addressed quickly through centralized visibility and most importantly, it is easy to deploy.

Additionally, in the age of GDPR, a cloud-based solution that also ensures guest privacy without any user data crossing the cloud, only management traffic, is imperative.

Monetization opportunities

Naturally, hotels (regardless of their size) are looking to improve the overall experience of their guests, in the hope of building brand loyalty. A smart wireless network provides more opportunities for a seamless customer experience, including streaming, voice-activated in-room concierge services through smart speakers, and in-room smart IoT control for music , blinds, lighting and temperature.

Using cloud-based analytics, hotels can also monetize opportunities through intelligent guest analytics. These methods include rewarding loyal visitors or offering value-added services. The beacons – placed in specific areas of the hotel and its resort – could also be used to trigger events like discount offers for a hotel spa when a guest walks past, for example.

A high-end hotel Wi-Fi network should live up to customer expectations and deliver high speed. But only hotels with smart, responsive grids can sell these premium services, and with the confidence that they deliver on their promises to guests.

In a recent research paper released by consulting firm Gartner, the organization revealed its key predictions for technological innovation in 2018 and beyond. Gartner says technological disruption is overtaking incumbent organizations, and in order to continue to thrive, businesses must become their own self-disruptors and meet digital challenges.

Failure to respond could negatively impact businesses as the demands of connected customers for ubiquitous connectivity increase year by year. The cost of providing hotel Wi-Fi networks must be weighed against the cost of not doing enough in the right areas to maximize opportunities for technological innovation.

Recommendations

  • Hotel operators with multi-site premises need a rigorous site survey to create a personalized Wi-Fi action plan that’s fit for purpose.
  • A single glass dashboard panel provides visibility and management of the entire network.
  • Future-proof Wi-Fi networks with a scalable and responsive system that can adapt to increasing customer demands and future business expansion.
  • Create a true value-added premium Wi-Fi experience, avoid missed expectations and the potential for bad customer reviews and negative effect on bottom lines.
  • Personalization offers new ways of rewarding customers, marketing to sell related services, and adapting to the growing use of AI and IoT opportunities.

Key points to remember

  • Growing customer need for a ubiquitous, fast and responsive hotel wireless network.
  • Hotels or establishments cannot stand still and must continually adapt to the pace of technological advances.
  • The hospitality industry must seek solutions that create custom-built, scalable and fit-for-use wireless networks with a single point of view, virtual management and lifelong support.
  • Hotels can thrive by serving the needs of savvy, digitally connected guests who value a reliable and ubiquitous network that seamlessly provides the invisible wireless backdrop for their business or leisure activities.

Michael Wendt, Solutions Architect, Hutchinson Networks
Image Credit: Chris Oakley / Flickr


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