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Great hotel let down by poor WiFi

1st March, 2022
3 minutes

I’ve just returned from a lovely hotel stay that was let down by a poor guest experience. The WiFi was really poor.  When you’re a WiFi specialist with decades of experience in the sector and a keen knowledge of the market, it’s infuriating. I could see exactly where the hotels WiFi supplier had gone wrong but was powerless to change it.

The venue, which will remain nameless, is using a specialist hospitality technology company that offers a whole package, including telephony, check in systems and payment systems. WiFi becomes the ‘add on’ and therefore locks the hotel in with the chosen equipment and system. It’s not a problem if it all works well for the guest – but it doesn’t.   There have been several guest reviews of this hotel and many complain about the poor WiFi. What’s going wrong?

Firstly, the system is using consumer-grade equipment that isn’t designed or suitable for a large-scale deployment like this hotel. Equipment designers are clever; they design products for specific sectors and environments. Hotels, for example, have multiple areas, both internal and external, as well as public and private spaces across multiple floors in potentially old buildings. A product that is designed for a family home will never be able to handle these complex challenges.

Secondly, connecting to the hotel WiFi is linked to a messy and complicated captive portal. This opens as a log-in page, with guests registering their details to access the internet. On my stay, it failed at the first hurdle. The portal page wouldn’t load; I couldn’t register and couldn’t get online. When I finally connected with my smartphone, I was knocked off every time we moved around the hotel. I was forced to forget the network, re-register and re-connect. This happens because we were moving between WiFi access points and the system couldn’t transfer our device connectivity efficiently.

The third issue was all the data collection that WiFi connectivity required. Guest information is gathered for marketing purposes, yet most companies never actually use it. The hotel already collects guest details at the time of booking and check-in. Why collect it again? This approach only degrades the WiFi user experience. In this era of rapid connections and access, it’s a stumbling block.

The ‘fixes’ are relatively straightforward. Start by ensuring your WiFi products are designed for your sector and review the whole experience from the guest’s perspective.  Is it easy, seamless and quick to access? I’d recommend removing the captive portal from guest WiFi (perhaps provide a token or a password for access?) and consider creating a ‘public’ WiFi for non-residents. The captive portal could be applied to this public network, while creating two levels of access allows a hotel to offer a ‘premium’ service to guests by restricting bandwidth per user on the public network.

Your WiFi needs to add value to a stay, not frustrate your guests. The market is competitive and bad experiences result in bad reviews and a reduction in bookings. We know that margins can be tight, by WiFi is not the place to cut back.

Martin Bence
An accomplished, highly regarded Senior IT leader with over 25 years of experience who can communicate on both a business and technical level. Capable of taking complex requirements and turning them into solutions that add value by helping to achieve business goals.
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