We’ve written before about how the incredible growth of iPads and iPhones is putting tremendous pressure on hotel wifi networks. Now, in a recent report from Gartner, network providers are being warned that they may need 300% more access points in their network just to meet iPad demand and match the performance of laptops on the same network.
It’s a daunting prospect, and one that is leaving many hotels with no option but to upgrade and significantly change the deployment of their wireless network.
The primary reason old networks aren’t working well with new technology such as the iPad and other mobile devices is transmit power. The Internet relies on two-way communication. No matter how powerful a hotel’s access points are, the network is only as strong as the signal coming from its weakest device: in this case, the iPad. A device simply won’t function online If it can receive data but can’t communicate back to the network. And here lies the problem.
Gartner notes that the iPad’s transmit power of 10 mW does not compare with the 30 mW to 50 mW of a typical laptop. When your network has been designed with the laptop in mind–and not the iPad–newer devices simply won’t have the performance or range guests expect.
“While the iPad may connect, performance will fall off much more quickly than laptops as the user moves away from the access point, and, depending on the [wireless] design parameters, may find itself in a coverage hole at the edge of the coverage area where other devices are able to operate,” said the report.
So, what’s the solution? Garnet notes, that this “has little to do with the transmit power of the access point, since even vendor access point default values (30 mW to 100 mW) will be higher than the 10 mW device transmit power of the iPad.” In other words, increasing the power of existing access points won’t work. The answer is simply to add more access points–about three times more–or plan the network more effectively.
It’s no coincidence that this has been Liveport’s approach since inception. With Liveport’s mesh technology, we typically triple or quadruple the number of access points when upgrading a property–typically without adding any new cables. These access points are located close enough for guests to connect flawlessly, no matter how weak their device is, while simultaneously providing a high-speed backbone to the web.
It appears the days of few, high-powered access points are coming to an end in the age of the iPad. If you’d like to read the full report, click here.
Well, these are exciting times here at Liveport! After surging past the 300-hotel milestone late in 2011, we’re still going very strong in North America. And the latest news? We’ve opened up a new office in Australia!
Jeff Rhode, the owner of Liveport Australia, is off to a great start, with five hotels in service after just a few weeks on the job. The full news release can be found here.
And if you’re visiting us from Australia, know that the same great product, service and price is nowavailable to you. Visit Liveport Australia here.
Thanks for helping to make Liveport a continued success!
Providing a strong, fast and secure guest wireless network can seem like a daunting challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. Danny Bakker, Vice President of Liveport, offers his advice on providing a hassle-free hotel wifi system.
1. Get coverage…everywhere
Guests expect to connect to the Internet in their rooms, regardless of if they’re right next to the lobby or at the end of the hallway. The surge of mobile devices, such as iPhones and iPads, with weaker wireless antennas has made this more difficult for hotels in recent years, and complaints about poor signal abound as a result.
Bakker says the old approach of one or two powerful wi-fi antennas is obsolete.
“It doesn’t matter how powerful your system is, the network will only be as strong as the weakest device—those tablets and phones,” says Bakker. “That means you need a system that gets close to guests using low-power access points, and more of them.”
Bakker is a big advocate of ‘mesh’ networks, finding them the perfect solution for hotels. The network is a mix of access points that are fed with traditional cable, and those that require power only. Both types work together to provide a seamless wireless network throughout the entire hotel.
2. Make it fast
It doesn’t matter how good the network is within the hotel if you don’t have enough bandwidth—guests may call it ‘speed’—coming to the property in the first place.
Bandwidth is essentially the amount of data that can pass over the network at any given time. Some tasks, such as basic web browsing and email, require little bandwidth. But online streaming video services, video chat clients, and peer-to-peer file sharing, demand a lot.
“A year or two ago, a typical guest was happy to check some emails, the weather and the news,” says Bakker. “But more and more, guests expect to watch their favourite TV shows and movies over the Internet, and do video chats with their friends and relatives. Bandwidth demand has gone up exponentially.”
There isn’t a magic number as to how much bandwidth is required for each hotel, as it varies greatly based on size, clientele, guest expectations and what hoteliers are willing to provide.
3. Manage access
If your network is fast and covers the entire property, you’re heading for a disaster if you don’t have any network management in place, says Bakker.
On a basic level, each network should put a cap on individual users, so no single network abuser can use up all the available bandwidth.
“We basically make people share the network,” says Bakker. “We’ll even block them completely if they are causing issues for other guests. They can get back online by calling us, and we’ll give a gentle reminder to turn off their file sharing program.”
Unless your hotel is isolated in the middle of nowhere, Bakker says a password is a good idea to prevent unauthorized users from connecting.
For more advanced networks, your provider should be able to set up voucher systems that let you charge guests for certain time periods, bandwidth levels, and number of devices. A modern network management tool such as the Liveport Cloud Network Manager can take care of all these systems, as well as alert you whenever there is a network problem.
Bakker sees tiered access—giving a basic, slow level of Internet for free, with the option to purchase more bandwidth for an additional fee—as a trend in the industry.
4. Support your guests, day and night
Guests use the Internet at all hours of the day, so make sure help is available for them when they need it. Support during typical business hours-only, or two-hour call return times simply won’t work. In fact, most hotel franchises require toll-free, 24/7 guest technical support, so make sure your wireless vendor also offers this.
“If a network is running as it should, guests calling typically just need a helping hand changing their system,” says Bakker. “But having a knowledgeable person—not simply a front-desk staff person—who can help them get online goes so far in keeping that guest satisfied and coming back.”
Bakker adds that in more than 90 per cent of calls his company receives, they are able to get guests connected and on their way.
5. Keep costs under control
This tip is a good one for any area of your property, but it’s especially important any time you are dealing with technology.
Bakker says he sees it all the time: hotels who have spent tens of thousands of dollars on access points, servers and IT contractors, only to have a system that barely works.
“A strong, fast hotel wireless system doesn’t have to cost a lot,” he says. “But you do need to spend your money wisely and with a company that’s in it for the long haul.”
Since Apple introduced the second-generation Apple TV in 2010, it’s quickly become a popular addition to living rooms everywhere. In fact, most of us Liveport employees have one.
The AppleTV is a small box that hooks into a TV to provide high-definition video streams from YouTube, Netflix, Apple Movies, and live games from the NBA, MLB and NHL. All of this content comes over the Internet, rather than through traditional copper TV cables. And today, Apple announced an update that brings 1080p streaming content (opposed to the 720p content previously) to the box.
If the product is meant for living rooms, how does that affect hotels? It’s true that most guests using Liveport’s networks are doing so on a laptop, phone or tablet, we’re starting to see more and more AppleTVs showing up. It looks like some guests love their Apple TVs so much that they are bringing them along when they travel and connecting them to the TV in their room!
Apple TVs place a tremendous load on wireless networks because of all that high-definition steaming video. It’s similar to what we’re seeing from iPhone and iPad users, but the content is often higher-resolution, meaning higher file sizes and more bandwidth being taken up by each device. And this was our experience with the 720p content on the previous generation–never mind 1080p on the latest product!
So, can Liveport handle Apple TV’s on our networks? Yes–as long as the rest of the “chain” is strong. Our latest access points and cloud network manager can more than handle the load. However, Liveport’s system is only as good as what’s behind it:
- the incoming Internet connection, and
- a suitable amount of cabling connected to our access points to make enough “gateway” units.
If you bring in enough bandwidth from your ISP and have enough cabling to feed our system, we’ll keep your Apple TV-loving guests happy.
If you’re thinking it might be time for an upgrade, give Liveport a call. Liveport includes lifetime upgrades in their all-inclusive pricing model of $2.99 per room, per month.
Have you noticed how fast the cost of technology is dropping? If you’ve peeked in a flyer from a local big-box retailer lately, you’ve probably shared my experience: that new piece of gadgetry you purchased 6 months ago is now hundreds of dollars cheaper. Or a new version came out with way more features for the same price.
Consumer technology keeps getting better and better while prices go lower and lower. But that trend isn’t restricted to consumer technology alone. In fact, with hotel wireless Internet, the trend has been moving much faster.
Four or five years ago, a typical hotel wireless Internet provider would place a few expensive access points at strategic points in the building, hoping to cover the entire property (based on our experience upgrading systems, most failed). They installed expensive servers, switches and routers on site and hired high-cost IT workers to keep the whole thing running.
So what’s changed in four years? Unfortunately, most WiFi companies haven’t changed a whole lot. They still install a few access points (though most are notably better than their predecessors) and expensive servers (that cost between $3,000 and $10,000 each) on site. Whenever something breaks or becomes outdated, it gets replaced–at the hotel’s expense. It’s the model they know, and it usually works…if you spend enough money.
When Liveport started in 2007, we wanted to take a different approach. We began by asking ourselves how we could make wireless easier and less expensive for hotels. We started with those $3,000-$10,000 on-site servers–and got rid of them. We started managing hotels’ wireless networks from the cloud. There is nothing to break, nothing to replace and nothing to tie us to a specific location. We can manage your wireless just as easy from Liveport’s central office, your hotel or Timbuktu–as long as we have an Internet or cell phone connection. We found that removing servers not only saved hotels money, it made network management much more powerful and efficient. We could set bandwidth limits, upgrade firmware, set up payment and tiered access systems, change network settings, block abusive downloaders and so much more, easily, at any time, from anywhere.
We then looked at the access points. Most companies were installing one high-powered access point on every floor or two. The result? The signal wasn’t getting all the way to the ends of the hallways or in all the nooks and crannies of the hotel property. Rather than relying on a few devices–each of which causes tremendous problems if it ever shuts down–we found a technology that allowed us to install lower-power access points for every 4-6 rooms, usually without running any new cables. And the technology, called “mesh,” was self-healing, meaning that if one access point was shut down, unplugged or stolen, guests wouldn’t usually notice the difference–they would automatically be redirected to another nearby access point. As the world shifted to mobile devices with weaker antennas like iPhones and iPads, we found our technology, with access points always within 50 feet of a guest, excelled where others faltered. After all, a guest Internet connection is only as strong as the antenna on the device they are using.
Again we saw that Liveport’s hotel wireless technology was far more robust and reliable than the systems worth thousands more.
The savings and technology we chose allowed us to price our product differently. We didn’t require site surveys or a constant stream of technicians to visit each hotel, so we decided on something pretty revolutionary: the $2.99 per room, per month (billed annually) model. For that price, we included equipment, installation, network monitoring and management, 24/7 guest technical support, and equipment replacement. As technology changed, we threw free equipment upgrades in as well. Absolutely everything hotels were paying thousands for before was simplified into an easy, powerful, all-inclusive service. We expanded into wired network monitoring, management and support in 2010, including the service for free. And we promised our hotel clients that we’d never charge them for anything else, ever. To make sure we could be kept to our word, we didn’t lock in clients to multi-year contracts. In fact, we allowed clients to leave at any time–we’d even refund them for any months they’d already paid for but didn’t use.
The results have been amazing. Today, Liveport is honoured to serve more than 30,000 hotel rooms in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Name any brand in North America and we’re probably there. But we’re not done yet. We know that strong WiFi is a competitive advantage in today’s hospitality landscape, so we keep striving to keep our clients at the front of the pack. We’ll keep pushing, innovating and upgrading to provide our clients with industry-leading wireless technology in their hotels, and friendly, knowledgeable, North American-based technical support for their guests.
Technology is changing fast, but you can count on Liveport to keep your hotel wifi up to date and your guests coming back.
The New York Times has an interesting piece on how iPads are changing the economics and speed of hotel WiFi.
Here’s one excerpt: “Largely because of the broad use of iPads and other mobile tablets, which are heavy users of video streaming, the guest room Wi-Fi networks that most hotels thought they had brought up to standard just a few years ago are now often groaning under user demands. ”
The piece points out that the demand for streaming video often surpasses the hotel’s ability to provide it for free. The writer feels there will be a move to a tiered system, where basic access for checking email and browsing the web will be free, but users will have to pay for higher bandwidth required to watch videos.
It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of hotels in the United States now offered at least some kind of Wi-Fi service with fees for higher use.
How is your network coping? Have you made upgrades in the last few years, only to find yourself falling short of guest demands again? Liveport’s all-inclusive pricing model might be the solution. Liveport includes equipment refreshes for life, eliminating the need to pay for expensive and frequent upgrades. We also have the ability to provide the tiered networks discussed in the article, and our mesh-node technology is perfect for mobile devices like tablets and smart phones. Ask us how we can help or visit http://www.liveport.com.
Liveport, a leading guest wireless provider in the hospitality industry, announced a new pricing structure today.
Liveport includes the latest cloud-managed, mesh-node hardware, 24/7 network management and monitoring, 24/7 toll-free guest support, and lifetime warranty and upgrades for one low monthly rate. Starting today, that rate also includes hardwired network monitoring, management and support for no additional fee. The new all-inclusive price of Liveport’s service is $2.99, per room, per month.
The pricing change has no impact on existing clients.
“We work hard to put our best rates right up front, and take the mystery out of hotel wireless Internet service pricing,” said Danny Bakker, Liveport VP. “With Liveport, hotels not only get a fast, reliable and powerful guest wireless service, but they have total cost certainty. For one payment, we take care of essentially everything.”
For more information on Liveport’s hotel Internet service, visit www.liveport.com.
“Wifi is one of those weird commodities which gets better the less it costs,” says Felix Salmon, a Routers Finance blogger in a rant about a recent hotel visit. “When you’re paying through the nose for it, it never ‘just works’ like it does when it’s free.”
Often, hotels look to push for complex systems with pay scales, splash pages, different tiers and a whole bunch of other, well, junk that really isn’t necessary. The result? Customers who vow to never come back to the hotel and post their feelings publicly.
When it comes to hotel WiFi, you should always lean towards simplicity.
Make it fast.
Make it easy.
Make it free.
Your guests will thank you for it and will keep coming back.
And if you think it simply costs to much to have a reliable hotel WiFi system, maybe it’s time to give Liveport a call.
If your guests are having trouble connecting to your hotel’s WiFi network with Apple’s iPad 2, they aren’t alone. Engadget is reporting that many iPad 2 users are having intermittent wireless connection issues:
Some things, they never change. Boys will be boys, free never really is, and iPads will have WiFi issues. If you’ll recall, the original Apple slate also had such troubling issues with maintaining a wireless connection that the folks in Cupertino actually made a promise to fix things in time. Eventually, that patch was indeed rolled out, but then we heard that iOS 4.2 was being pushed a bit due to — you guessed it — more WiFi issues. Now that the iPad 2 has made its way out into the adoring public’s hands, we’re starting to see a growing cadre of customers raising similar gripes.
Liveport’s support team has seen a higher than expected volume of calls from iPad 2 users–certainly more than the original iPad and other iOS devices–but the problem (thankfully) still seems limited to certain devices.
If you’re a Liveport client, we’ll walk your guests through our standard troubleshooting methods for iPads, but unfortunately, the issue won’t be fully resolved until Apple issues a software update.
Access to free, fast, reliable WiFi ought to be as standard in hotel rooms as the provision of toilet paper. It should be like electricity and water: factored into the room rate as a normal facility, and unthinkable not to provide it. Personally, I would give up the 1000-count sheets that, being asleep, I’m mostly unconscious of, the fluffy robe and silly scuffs that I never wear, and the huge noisy spa bath that takes forever to fill, if I could instead settle down to read my emails, post to my blog, check up on the news at home and generally behave as though I live in the 21st century and not some 1980s outpost where the closest thing to email is airmail.
She goes on to note that most budget hostels and high-end properties have seen the light, but that many mid-range hotels have not. If you have five minutes, it’s a great read from a [irritated] customer’s perspective.
To be honest, we think she’s right for the vast majority of properties out there. And with the costs of installing and managing a strong, robust guest wireless network falling and competition rising, it’s hard to see why more hotels aren’t dropping the charges. For example, service (including equipment, install, support and more) from Liveport works out to just $2 per room, per month. Even after adding in monthly ISP costs, hotels are still able to provide fast, fully managed wireless in every room for pennies a day.
What do you think? Where is guest WiFi headed in the future?