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Transformation of Guest Wi-Fi in Hospitality

August 02, 2021


If we go back far enough in hospitality history, we can see that, for a long time, the hotel's telephonic communication hub was a profitable business. We have progressed from local and long-distance calls to faxes, smartphones, emails, and video-calling. With the arrival of cellular technology, the telephone department, which was formerly a key profit generator, became obsolete. Now, it is the internet at hand.

Most of the guests anticipate being able to always use the internet during their stay. Guests want a pleasant experience at the conclusion of their visit, whether they are using business apps or surfing social media. Hotels that have poor connectivity and video streaming experiences are on the no-go list. Initially, hotels charged for a high-speed internet connection to offset their costs, but in response to evolving customer needs & expectations, hoteliers and restaurateurs began providing high-speed internet access free of cost.

There is a strong correlation between access to fast internet and guest satisfaction. This forces hoteliers to continuously invest in better Wi-Fi infrastructure and services that will improve the quality of experience to end-users  The area where hotels seem to struggle is the ever-increasing cost that cannot be offset if the amenity is offered for free. That is when tiered pricing was introduced, which means that all guests will have free Wi-Fi access, but guests can pay a fee to upgrade their bandwidth and gain access to faster internet The guests today consider free Wi-Fi as a necessity and not a luxury. Roomzzz, an English hotelier, surveyed guests and found that 46% of guests considered Wi-Fi as a must-have amenity, otherwise they would look for alternate accommodations.

Now, providing such an amenity with lesser hassles for the end consumer is a task for hoteliers. Brands when think of expanding into multiple sub-brands or having multiple properties must keep in mind about scaling and keeping all their Wi-Fi infrastructure in parity with each other. Consequently, there arise various challenges that come up with the Wi-Fi services that are offered by the hoteliers:

  1. Onboarding- In hotels, Wi-Fi network names (SSIDs) are not always consistent, captive portals and log-in processes differ which are a few of the causes of rough experience. Brands face a huge problem because of the bad visitor experience caused by such Wi-Fi hindrances. It is also reported that 33% of guests stay dissatisfied with the current Wi-Fi systems.
    It becomes essential for the brand and sub-brands to deliver seamlessness in onboarding to all their customers that roam across their properties.
  2. Security- Public Wi-Fi networks are more susceptible to security vulnerabilities; hence security becomes the most important concern for guests as well as hoteliers to protect their brand value. The authentication processes and network elements should be robust enough to not get inflicted by severe cyber-attacks.
  3. High-bandwidth- Each guest today carries at least 2-3 devices even when they travel. They wish to use multiple applications across their devices simultaneously. This increases the bandwidth demanded of your network. Guests may use bandwidth-intensive apps such as Skype, Facetime, Netflix, Torrents, and social media postings.

Customers today need a customized experience to shift towards brand loyalty. Such issues not only spoil the customer experience but also depletes the brand name. Hence it is important to aim for a great Wi-Fi experience because it warrants increased satisfaction, guest retention, revenue, and brand value.

Keeping customer needs in mind, there is a significant rise of technologies happening in the hospitality space which will not only help solve the current challenges of connectivity to the guests but also engage those guests and build brand loyalty. Some of such technologies are listed below:

Passpoint- With Passpoint it is possible to discover Wi-Fi networks in the vicinity and automatically connect to the one that the user has authorization for. The second major advantage of  Passpoint has improved security. Passpoint networks bring in a stricter level of security as compared to the traditional Wi-Fi networks as they mandate the use of enterprise-grade WPA2 security protocol for wi-fi access. The third benefit that Passpoint brings in is the frictionless roaming across different wi-fi networks of the same enterprise or partners networks without the need for keeping the SSID name the same across the networks. It also eliminates the reliance on MAC addresses for guest recognition and authentication, thus, providing a future-proof solution for the upcoming MAC randomization threats.

Passpoint has now made a paradigm shift in the strategic thinking of the hoteliers from providing a seamless experience at individual properties to providing the same experience across their different properties and even to the different sub-brands. With Hotspot 2.0 as the backbone technology for the OpenRoaming initiative of WBA too, it envisions to move from the fragmented experience of wi-fi across different networks to an “always connected” experience similar to cellular networks.

HSC’s Next Generation Hotspot is a Passpoint-based wi-fi solution that enables hoteliers to provide a frictionless Wi-Fi experience across their properties.

5G- With the emergence of 5G that ensures low latency, faster speeds, and better availability, the gains in the wireless space will increase manyfold in the next decade. Both Wi-Fi & 5G will coexist to create a beneficial ecosystem for the hotel industry as the travelers will use both interchangeably without even noticing. Indoors, Wi-Fi still outperforms 5G. The use of high-frequency bands, such as those used by 5G, poses major problems, particularly indoors. Higher-frequency radio waves as in 5G have a considerably tougher time penetrating obstacles like walls. Service providers can leverage this outdoor to indoor switching to share the mobile data offloading costs and reduce their OPEX.

Mobile Edge Computing- With hoteliers personalizing customer experience for the guests, it is important that the high compute applications that require low latency are hosted on edge. Checking in and opening bedroom doors using face recognition or other biometrics is only the beginning of the next-generation hotel experience on the edge. With 5G core network already in the implementation phase, the low latency is expected on the edge once the edge application server is placed in the core network or the hotel system.

Such technologies are not only transforming the digital space of hospitality but are also helping deliver the best-curated customer experience which in turn will drive more growth in this sector.

 






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