Competition in the hospitality industry is keener than ever, as more hotels and lodges compete for potential guests’ attention, and for many, in-room Wi-Fi is a deal breaker.
Paul Stuttard, a director at Duxbury Networking, a leading South African distributor of computer systems and solutions, says the availability of modern in-room technology is playing an increasing role in the choice of hotel – for holiday-makers as well as guests on business trips.
“Research conducted in the US shows that the availability of in-room Wi-Fi services is a ‘decision-maker’ when it comes to booking accommodation – according to 89% of those surveyed,” he says.
“Local hotel administrators should be aware that this trend is also evident in SA. A significant percentage of travellers bring laptops, tablets or smartphones with them on their trips. They require Wi-Fi in the privacy of their rooms – in preference to ‘business centres’ or communal lounges – to check emails and stay in touch. Having this capability increasingly influences their choice of accommodation.”
Stuttard says demand for in-room Wi-Fi presents a challenge to older hotels and establishments that do not have the necessary infrastructure – Ethernet computer cabling – to offer this important service. Adding more cabling to already-full electrical conduits to facilitate the service in an existing construction is generally impossible.
In many instances, he says, these hotels find a less-than-satisfactory “fix” to the problem by wiring up and mounting Wi-Fi access points in the corridors or even outside, pointing at the windows. “The success rate of these ‘bodged attempts’ at in-room Wi-Fi is low, often because hotel rooms have substantial, fire-resistant doors and are built of solid walls, ceilings and floors all of which help to limit wireless penetration, resulting in a poor service.”
Stuttard maintains that even if hotel owners and management consider re-cabling each room, the loss of revenue from individual rooms being out of service (if not entire floors) would be considerable – and prohibitive.
“Fortunately, modern technology has come to the rescue. Newly-released Wi-Fi access point solutions, from global vendors such as Extreme, allow existing telephone wires to transmit high-speed data when coupled with the right hardware.
“They turn the hotel’s analogue telephone cabling system into a dual-purpose solution that delivers power for a wireless access point, transmits high-speed data and reconnects the old in-room phone,” he notes.
“Technically-speaking these offerings are based on new-generation Wave 2 technology. They represent the results of continual advances in wireless and chip technologies, radio design, solution architectures and energy efficiencies.
“Simple to install – as easy as plugging in a lamp – they support the most demanding voice/video/data applications to enhance guests’ mobile productivity and convenience. Importantly, they include all the features that appeal to hotel management, their IT specialists and security consultants.”
According to Stuttard, Wave2 solutions also allow the existing hotel ‘phone system to optimise the Wi-Fi network, expanding its capabilities too. In addition, the integrated management, security and quality of service [QoS] features help to reduce operating costs and ensure a consistent and pleasant user experience.
He adds that the technical specification of the latest devices (with two Ethernet ports, for instance) is such that they should meet the stringent requirements of the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA) as they are in line with accepted “five-star” standards for quality and relevance to both local and overseas travellers’ needs.