Why Hotel WiFi Sucks -- And What You Can Do About It

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Here is how bad hotel WiFi is: frustrated users have created a dedicated website called HotelWifiTest that lives to shame hotels into upping their speed. That's because the site lets hotel guests test their Wifi connections...then it encourages them to publicize the results on social media.

The results are grim. At a glance there's a Holiday Inn on W. 57th in Manhattan with a 0.67 Mbps speed rating -- and that is scarcely fast enough for email.

But here's the problem: many thousands of hotels across the country have appallingly slow WiFi. At a guess, Brian Caskey, chief marketing officer at Zhone Technologies, a company that provides upgraded fiber based broadband to hotels, claims that "85 to 90% of hotels have this issue."

The counterpoint is that, in research conducted by WiFi provider iPass, mobile workers rated WiFi as second in importance only to a comfortable bed in hotels - yet 81% said they had experienced poor WiFi in a hotel in the past 12 months.

Tim Tang, an executive with managed network service provider Hughes, told how we got into this sorry state: "Hotels haven't thought through their implementation of WiFi. Many people are using the same resource, at the same time. But the amount of broadband resources is insufficient for the demand. The first problem is capacity. Access is also a problem. It's a perfect storm for a miserable WiFi experience."

Joel Vicent, an executive with WiFi provider Aerohive, elaborated that at most hotels, management has not acknowledged that the paradigm has changed. Most networks, he elaborated, were built out to serve an expected one device per room, and that device was a laptop with multiple big, beefy antennas that could capably hunt for and access even weak WiFi signals.

Today, however, it is three to maybe more than 10 devices per room, and often those devices are iPhones, iPads, Android tablets with perhaps one feeble antenna.

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