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Tuesday, May 23, 2017
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Is good quality guest Internet now a necessity?

How the world has changed. For many of us, it doesn’t seem too long ago that it was not even considered, but fast reliable guest internet is now often regarded as essential in any accommodation property.

Big, expensive hotels and motels could not consider being without it for their corporate guests and comfortably off international patrons who will often be used to excellent overseas standards, but even for holiday parks and backpackers, so pervasive is modern electronic communications technology that even they take a risk in being without it. It is these cheaper accommodation providers who depend more on younger guests for their custom and it is the youth market that is most heavily dependent on access to the internet.

There will still be the occasional older single guest or couple who has not been dragged in, but they are now a rare species, and becoming rarer all the time. Some smaller moteliers or similar accommodation providers will at least inwardly grumble at the cost, but if they wish to compete in today’s market, they might feel they have little choice. A question about the internet will now very often be the very first question a guest asks – before they even book.

Australian situation

So what is the situation here? Do Australian accommodation providers feel the same pressure as their contemporaries overseas? And what standards and service should they expect from those in the internet industry? AMG asked Judy Senn, director of Time Out Internet; Val Rasskazov, technical director at WiFi Point; and Scott Hampton, general manager at Powertec Telecommunications, a series of questions to ascertain their thoughts on the issue:

Is guest wifi essential for an accommodation property and why?

Time Out Internet: Absolutely imperative – guests expect free wifi – everyone is travelling with devices to stay in contact or travelling for business. Connectivity is important and a major part of everyone’s day.

Powertec: Any number of surveys over the last year clearly shows that access to wifi – especially access to free wifi, is a leading factor in whether a guest chooses to stay in a property.

Hotels, cafés, bars and many social-based retail outlets are faced with increasing demand from their visitors for connectivity. Customers expect high speed wireless internet access wherever they go − whether using a wireless laptop, iPad or smart phone. Wifi is proven as a key factor in keeping guests happy.

By offering wifi, you will be able to add value to guests’ experience and increase your visitor numbers, whether access is paid or free. The advantage to the property is increasing interaction with your customers, upselling while on-site, upselling to your guests’ friends and brand promotion.

WiFi Point: According to a Hotels.com Amenities Survey in 2013, wifi is the most important amenity for hotel-goers – 34 percent of leisure travellers said free wifi was the number one factor in choosing a hotel while 56 percent of business travellers said free wifi was their number-one must-have amenity. Hotel guests use FaceTime or Skype to have live video chats with friends, families or clients.

They also watch HD video streaming and share photos on social media with wifi-enabled mobile devices. All of these applications consume a large amount of bandwidth. Consequently there is no doubt that in addition to providing wifi, the performance of wifi services is becoming standard in the hospitality industry.

How important is research when looking for a provider?

Powertec: It is important to meet your installer and get a feel for their knowledge, particularly when installing a more complicated wifi network. They should be able to assist you quickly and easily if necessary.

It is also important to ensure you are clear with your requirements. A good provider will ask relevant questions, and will also provide you with clear warranties for their work.

WiFi Point: The research is very important. Once hotels decide to deploy WLANs, the owners might experience a number of problems from the poorly implemented wifi network, such as: complicated account creation and separate room/wifi bills, creating additional workload for IT staff; access points distributed across the hotel property which are difficult to individually manage and maintain; and poor quality of wifi due to unmanaged infrastructure.

Other problems can be that anyone can access the wifi easily, including those who are not guests of the hotel; and that logging in is troublesome for guests carrying multiple devices. Also, users could experience wifi interruptions while moving around hotel property or when multiple business travellers need to connect to their companies via VPN at the same time.

Time Out Internet: Extremely important – by purchasing or locking yourself into a contract with the supplier of a wifi system that does not suit the needs of the property now or into the future, will only cause headaches and negative reviews for the accommodation provider, and cost them more money in the long run.

The accommodation provider needs to understand what they want to achieve both now and in the future. Technology is changing fast, data usage amounts are increasing and devices are getting smaller with smaller antennas, meaning they need to be closer to the wifi devices submitting the signal to work effectively. SmartTVs are becoming more prevalent and people are travelling with Netflix on their devices, and want to use them. Updates to devices are becoming larger.

Before making any decisions, ensure you are comparing apples to apples – every wifi supplier has a different business model. Free installation sounds desirable but you need to be sure what you will get for it. For instance, how much does it cost to give 500Mb or 1Gb of free data per day per room/unit? Read their testimonials and call their existing customers.

What costs are your costs and how are they distributed – e.g. one-off or profit share?

WiFi Point: There is one-off cost for the wifi network implementation. Our team will scope the system based on the client requirements as every business is different. The costs usually involve wifi network design, hardware and software costs, on-site installation and initial configuration.

Time Out Internet: We offer two pricing options – a capital purchase or a two-year lease option. The capital purchase option includes the preconfigured wifi equipment and installation (if it is a remote site, the accommodation provider generally organises for a licensed data cabler to install the equipment). There is an ongoing annual fee for access to our control server and support.

The two-year lease option includes the preconfigured wifi equipment and installation (if it is a remote site, the accommodation provider generally organises for a licensed data cabler to install the equipment) and includes two years’ of access to our control server and support.

Our system allows the client to do whatever they want with their data – they supply the internet connection. They can offer an amount of free data per day per room/unit that renews at the same time every day autonomously. This data figure can be adjusted at any time – we set everything up in the admin area and provide training – and are always contactable to help change data plans and passwords details. The client can sell other data plans on the login screen – they set the pricing and receive 100 percent of the revenue.

Powertec: Once the design and installation is complete, the property owns the solution. We empower your staff to manage the network.

For properties wanting to invest in targeted branding and advertising to their clients, plus take advantage of big data analysis, a cloud-based management solution is available by annual subscription. This system gives insight to where your customers like to stay and spend on your property – vital information when preparing a sales strategy or enhancing a wifi coverage plan. The cloud software supports user behaviour analysis at the cloud back-end, including behaviour and web surfing history. The subscription cost is based on the number of access points in the network.

How do you ensure wifi coverage throughout the property?

Time Out Internet: It all depends on the site and what the client wants to achieve. We always discuss the options with the client and ensure they understand the capabilities of the system we are proposing. E.g. if they want to use SmartTVs in all rooms, they need an in-room wifi system with an NBN connection or a fast download/upload speed on their internet connection. One ADSL2 connection on an external wifi system will not suffice.

Powertec: For properties that require more than a hotspot, it is vital to do a site survey.

An on-site RF wifi survey is the most important part to ensure the design of your wireless network is exactly what you require, otherwise your implementation will only be best guess of coverage and capacity. With the expansion of devices now utilising wifi, it is not just about providing coverage but also building in capacity. Clients need to ensure such vital items as: coverage, capacity, security and redundancy are all covered. A survey will take into account your existing network and future demands.

WiFi Point: There is one-off cost for the wifi network implementation. Our team will scope the system based on the client requirements as every business is different. The costs usually involve wifi network design, hardware and software costs, on-site installation and initial configuration.

What bandwidth and internet speed do you guarantee?

Powertec: There are a few factors you need to take into consideration that impact on bandwidth and speed, such as: distance from internet source to the end user; and speed of internet source from the carrier itself.

Our products can supply from 1Mb per second to 1.7Gb per second data speed, but the client will decide the final speed based on the products chosen to cover their brief and the service offered by their carrier. Clients may need to upgrade the service they receive from the carrier to take full advantage of wifi opportunities.

WiFi Point: The bandwidth and the internet speed requirements will be assessed during the design phase. The hotel owners should tell us what speeds they would like to provide to end customers. Most of the hotels provide speeds enough to browse the internet, check email and do the Skype call.

Recently we are getting more and more clients who need speeds to support Netflix. We can deliver the solution to support this requirement.

Time Out Internet: The accommodation provider provides the internet connection for the wifi system – we are impartial as to which Internet service provider they choose to use. We can guide them as to the best requirement for what they are trying to achieve.

Depending on what speeds connection is available from the Internet service supplier, we will supply equipment to match or exceed these speeds.

What ongoing support does your company offer?

WiFi Point: The clients can manage the system by themselves. In this case there are no ongoing fees. But if they require support, we can provide it: casual support (pay per hour); 8×5 technical support (monthly fee); 24/7 technical and customer support (monthly fee).

Time Out Internet: We offer the highest level of support for our customers and their guests, seven days a week from 8am-7pm.

Powertec: We have a full Australia based technical department to assist with on-phone troubleshooting, plus our sales team is always on hand. Customers have access to their local install team with Powertec back-up and our products have lengthy warranties. Our authorised network installers around Australia will work with your staff to ensure minimal disruption.

Is there anything you regard as special about your company’s service?

Time Out Internet: Our system lets the accommodation provider do what they want to do with their data. It is unique, easy to use and not an off-the-shelf product. We own the intellectual property and our control server was built to provide our customers with all the features and functionality they require – with minimal work required by them. We are continuously releasing new features based on customer feedback.

Powertec: Powertec Telecommunications is an Australian company which has been in the telecommunication and wireless arena for over 20 years. We train our partners in the latest technologies, and can offer the industry’s latest commercial grade technologies and solutions. We provide fantastic products at a competitive price.

WiFi Point: We deliver a comprehensive solution with such factors as: integration with a hotel PMS which allows simple wifi login with guest details and enables consolidated room bills; secure user authentication with customisable login and logout pages; simplified single-account access for multiple devices; wifi tickets printed with QR code for quick login; fast roaming which provides seamless transitions between APs and enables greater mobility; and support for multiple public IPs for specific cases, such as redundant ISP links. Our solutions and services are very flexible so we can satisfy all client requirements.

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About Rosie Clarke

Rosie Clarke
Rosie Clarke is the editor of Resort News and Accom Management Guide as well at their digital home, accomnews. You can reach her at any time with questions or submissions.

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