When guests on business mix with leisure travellers and hotel staff on the same Wi-Fi network, it can make for a miserable, slow connection. As a result corporate customers, holiday makers and the accommodation provider’s own employees often struggle with bad internet and unreliable Wi-Fi connections—mostly due to bandwidth-sucking apps.

While a lot of larger hotels will have separate Wi-Fi networks for guests and staff, there are a whole raft of smaller, independent accommodation providers where this isn’t the case. Far too often in these instances, guests accept poor coverage, slow connections or drop outs as part of their lives. But this is starting to change - especially now that OTAs like Booking.com allow guests to rate Wi-Fi quality as part of their overall trip review.

These hotels and accommodation providers need a Wi-Fi network that’s capable of delivering high-speed internet access, even in the face of extreme usage. This usually entails an upfront investment in Wi-Fi network design and in quality hardware - something that might seem difficult to justify as a capital expense when there are other claims on cashflow. But it’s important that hotels don’t skimp on hardware and invest wisely to cope with growing Wi-Fi usage.

Once a hotel has appropriately addressed the issues of quality and design, the management team need to understand specifically what consumes capacity on their Wi-Fi network. Streaming media remains the biggest challenge for most hotels today - indeed, bandwidth-hungry video already constitutes well over half of Internet traffic. It will certainly continue to grow as higher resolutions gain popularity and additional services are introduced. To make things even more complicated, demand for these applications is not consistent; there are always peaks and lulls. In a hotel, for example, it’s not uncommon to see Netflix traffic surge in the evening, or when it’s cold and rainy outside.

The second category – cloud backups and updates – can be a ‘silent but deadly’ bandwidth hog. These applications often run in the background and move gigabytes of data, often without the user even knowing. Corporate guests are not immune to this either - the auto-save function on PowerPoint, for example, can mean that large files are backed up every one to two minutes to cloud-based or file share accounts.

While most Wi-Fi networks may work well most of the time, there will always be scenarios where usage can spike, which can lead to major performance issues. An application-intelligent approach can help manage the capacity challenges that hotels face. The best of these tools can let hotel staff create individual usage policies for literally thousands of different applications by identifying those that hog bandwidth and analysing their usage trends over time. Applications or groups of applications can be prioritised, blocked or even throttled - although hotels will need to tread carefully if introducing blanket restrictions. Instead, they might consider introducing different policies for different sets of guests or even different parts of the hotel (this would, of course, be entirely transparent to guests).

As the year draws to a close, it’s an ideal opportunity for hotel managers and owners to revisit the way in which they manage their Wi-Fi network infrastructure. Wi-Fi usage will only continue to grow and the hospitality sector needs to be ready to meet that growth face on. 

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