Guests expect Wi-Fi but should it be free?

30 November 2011 by
Guests expect Wi-Fi but should it be free?

As portable devices, be they smartphones or laptops, have become increasingly integrated into daily life, so consumer expectations with regard to Wi-Fi have changed. Just a few years ago we were happy to wait at home while a dial-up connection downloaded our e-mails. Now guests expect to log on with their latte.

In his regular column, Peter Hancock asks whether mobile use is out of control and if there's anything that operators can do about restaurant guests with phones glued to their palms.

While it may be considered rude in a restaurant, mobile and laptop use in pubs, coffee shops and hotels is now ubiquitous. As a result it is now a guest expectation that Wi-Fi is available. But should guests be entitled to expect that it's free? Arguably it is now as essential in a hotel room as television, though its use is much more difficult - and potentially expensive - to control.

This week we consider whether it's economical to provide Wi-Fi for free, and how you can use the technology to increase sales. The problem, it seems, is the bandwidth required to maintain a system that can cope with multiple guests using high resource applications like gaming and streaming video.

It is a significant investment, particularly for hoteliers, and one that is difficult to communicate to customers used to paying a small monthly charge for Wi-Fi at home.

The solution could lie in a charge for premium high bandwidth provision, or at least a sliding scale of service. It doesn't all have to be free, but in this digital age expectations will only grow and if you're not attracting customers with added value a competitor will be.

By James Stagg

E-mail your comments to James Stagg here.

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