Why Does Hotel WiFi Suck?
Free WiFi has become a necessity in the hotel industry. I’m loathed to write this next bit but I wouldn’t book a hotel without WiFi.
Most hotels, even the big boys, are reluctant to spend good money to do it right. Going back to the loathing part, guest surveys have repeatedly found that good WiFi is more important than a comfortable bed – throw up emoji.
If it’s so important – why does hotel WiFi so consistently suck?
too many or not enough access points (APs)
I was staying at a hotel in the Algarve a few weeks ago and walking down the corridor I saw an AP every 6 foot. Too many – unless, of course, there were 50 people in each room. Too many can interfere with each other and ruin it for everyone – yes wireless, not the 50 people thank you.
I’ve also stayed in a large well-known hotel where the solution was a Netgear router behind the desk – not enough. 2018 – a typical guest room can have 2 to 4 devices per person, and now you’ve got more clients than the AP can handle at once. Even a good old 18-year-old Netgear router can’t handle those numbers – sarcastic emoji.
Any good survey would tell you exactly how many, placement and channel/RF selection.
Access Points work best with ‘line-of-sight’ with the fewest possible interference factors in-between the AP and the client devices. Other facility devices like fire sprinklers, smoke detectors, exit signs, etc. can all be an interference.
Although seeing an ugly AP on the new decor could seem quite unappealing, placing them above the ceiling tiles or with the metal ducting is usually a big no-no. You know how Superman can’t see through lead? Well, it’s the exact same science – WiFi can’t see through steel.
pushing an elephant through a letterbox
Even with a perfect mesh of RF signals singing in perfect harmony, it means nothing if the weakest link is the 10Mb Internet circuit with 400 people trying to Netflix and chill.
I love Netflix but it takes no prisoners with bandwidth. Yes, it auto detects and scales appropriately but you multiply that by how many parents are trying to keep their kids quiet and you suddenly need a fat pipe. I call this the full of regrets equation. Once again, a good survey/design would tell you exactly what is needed.
This one is so basic it embarrassing. DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) is the protocol that serves you an IP address, gateway, and DNS for the given network. A hotel network (ANY network in fact) should have a scope at least twice the size of your expectations of the peak occupancy.
Sounds like an original PlayStation title I know but its the webpage that pops up for you to sign up and in.
If one is to be used, please make sure the machine it runs on has enough guts to handle the load. Also, trying to monetise the captive portal with ads is also a terrible idea. A happy guest will spend money in the hotel so there’s no need to annoy everybody for the sake of a few extra bucks.
Apart from whatever is considered illegal in your given country, Internet filtering has always been a hot potato of a subject. Not that I have anything against potatoes but every company owner needs to decide where they stand in the world and decide if something should be viewed or not despite your individual rights to view such things. Some take a more protective stance and some take no stance at all. Whichever is the case, you need to be willing to stand up and defend it.
Filtering isn’t just about protecting you and your family it’s also about…
For me, Wireless networks are there for easy access to the Internet. Until it’s fundamentally redesigned, it’s not as secure as wired networks. Don’t get me wrong, you can do a lot of good work to secure WiFi to the best of the technologies capabilities but what I’m talking about is that I can’t hack into your wired network by just casually walking outside your building using only a battery powered laptop in my backpack with no prior knowledge of who you are and have done zero research about your infrastructure.
Counterintuitive sentences aside, hotel WiFi can only be secured to the extent of putting a tick in a box to say you want to use it. Because of this, every measure should be taken to separate everybody from everybody else’s devices and from anything important or just devices they don’t need access to, important or not. I’m sure I’m not to the only Network guy who has scanned the local network only to find they had access to the router that had an easy password as well as access to the CCTV – that was a fun moment.
While getting access to free Internet, at first, doesn’t seem such a big deal in the grand scheme of things, where is the line of responsibility drawn? This is a quote from the US Department of Justice website regarding the recent foiled hacking attempts by the Dutch:
“When the conspirators’ remote hacking efforts failed to capture log-in credentials, or if those accounts that were successfully compromised did not have the necessary access privileges for the sought-after information, teams of GRU intelligence officers traveled to locations around the world where targets were physically located,” the Justice Department’s indictment reads. “Using specialized equipment, and with the remote support of conspirators in Russia, these on-site teams hacked into Wi-Fi networks used by victim organizations or their personnel, including hotel Wi-Fi networks.”
These actions are extremely easy to prevent, and thankfully they were, with a properly designed network and a security team to back it up. But, as always, convenience rules over common sense.
the bottom line
If you’re a hotel owner or manager, please take the time and spend the money to get it done right.
Good Wifi could be the difference between a five-star review and a completely made up one just to vent their frustration.