Is Your WiFi Network Really Good Enough?

By Tony Heung Senior Director Global Product Management, Exceptional Innovation | January 05, 2014

We are all familiar with the impressive statistics about the explosion in demand for bandwidth – but what is driving this trend in the hotel environment and what are the implications for the hotelier? The question each hotel manager or IT manager needs to be asking is 'How can I ensure my WiFi network meets the growing bandwidth needs and expectations of my guests?'

The reality is that the WiFi networks of just three or four years ago are probably no longer enough to support some properties, and with guests now rating the quality of WiFi service in the hotel as more important than basic amenities such as parking, towels and breakfast, hoteliers need to respond in order to protect their business. Some estimates now put the amount of lost revenue across the industry from lost bookings due to poor WiFi at close to $5 billion a year. (source Tnooz).

An additional challenge is what to charge guests to access the Internet. The debate around providing WiFi for free has to some extent moved on as many guests are now willing to pay a small amount for a premium service, but some hotels still view Internet provision as a revenue source rather than a vital guest service. Is this still a potential revenue source? Or is it a cost that needs to be absorbed as guests regard good Internet access as a basic service – or a '4th utility'.

So What is Driving This Huge Growth in Bandwidth Demand?

  • The devices themselves - are driving this growth, with smartphones that are capable of doing more, a lot faster and the popularity of the tablet. According to Cisco's 'Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update', by 2016, mobile-connected tablets will generate almost as much traffic as the entire global mobile network did in 2012!

  • Media consumption - However the key growth driver comes from the fact that increases in mobile connectivity have allowed mobile devices to function as tools for media consumption. By 2016, video is set to represent over 70% of mobile traffic – think of YouTube and Netflix etc, but we also can't get enough of downloading music (eg Pandora, Spotify), gaming, or social networking apps, to our mobile devices. A smartphone owner who uses Netflix, Pandora and Facebook will generate more than twice the volume of traffic as generated by a smartphone owner only using email and web apps….

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.