Hotel WiFi and the cost of technology
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 Whenever something breaks or becomes outdated, it gets replaced–at the hotel’s expense.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.