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ssavoy
Premium
join:2007-08-16
Dallas, PA
Reviews:
·Anveo

Why does hotel WiFi suck?

I don't know if this is the best board for this, but I thought it could spark some interest.

I think we've all had bad experiences trying to use WiFi in a hotel. I've been traveling a bit lately and it seems like every hotel regardless of price or "stars" has a poor WiFi network put in place. I was just in a Hilton where the guest connection was throttled to 5mbps/1mbps (fine), but it's a huge conference center and they make thousands of devices share a 5-meg line throughout an entire building. Like they can't afford anything bigger.

The worst setup I've seen is where a hotel throttled everyone to 512kbps/512kbps and had a subnet that allowed less IP addresses than the number of guest rooms the hotel had. Each AP was on the same channel. Again, it was a conference center and the network legitimately ran out of IP addresses. Plus the speed they throttled everyone to made it unusable for pretty much anything. Oh, and the IPs were public addresses but were firewalled anyway so there was pretty much no point in handing out public addresses anyway.

Is there some underlying reason why hotel WiFi really sucks? What was your worst experience or best experience?
--
»speedtest.net/result/598063272.png

»www.speedtest.net/result/817385397.png

davidhoffman
Premium
join:2009-11-19
Warner Robins, GA
kudos:3
Legacy contracts. During the early days of the internet some hotels signed extremely long contracts with companies that promised to manage the hotel's wired and wireless networks. The contractors got a share of the revenue from charging each guest for internet access or from each guests room rate. The contracts include severe financial penalties if there is early termination, just like today's cell phone contracts. The contracts were signed by managers who never thought there would be faster speeds for internet connections or that the percentage of guests needing access would grow so much. Some of these might be T3 or T1 lines, which are very costly.

corinthos

join:2007-10-09
reply to ssavoy
I hate when they limit it to only html browsing. When my work sets me up in hotels I get on xbox live. The speeds suck to play games but I can at least chat over headset. I used to not have a problem with them but then about 8 months ago I started running into places locking it down.
It sucks because even if you call them to ask they don't know how to get an answer to your question most times without trying it out.

stevech0

join:2006-09-17
San Diego, CA
I travel a lot - and have found that usually the mid/high end business hotels like Hyatt, Ritz, some Hiltons, have good WiFi but often at a price. I just use my Verizon 3G/4G modem or Modem+CradlePoint router/hot spot and usually attempt hotel Internet only if it's a decent wired connection.

HELLFIRE
Premium
join:2009-11-25
kudos:18
reply to ssavoy
said by ssavoy:

Is there some underlying reason why hotel WiFi really sucks?

Most likely the same reason why other things suck in IT : cheap, fast, perfect, pick two.

Never worked on any hotel LAN / WAN setups before, but I've done network support for
other companies and if the bad setups I've seen before are anything to go by, its not suprising
why hotel network performance can be in the crapper.

Some of the "Do Not Dos" I've seen before that are consistently repeated are : poor design
and implementation, poor segmentation / separation of the network, legacy / unsupported / improperly
scaled equipment being clearly (mis)used, no visibility into the network (think FCAPS,
monitoring, and reporting), little to no support personnel, local or otherwise, no documentation
of the setup, no inventory or lifecycling of equipment / requirements... the list goes on.

Regards

jimbopalmer
Tsar of all the Rushers

join:2008-06-02
Greenwood, MS
kudos:3
reply to ssavoy
"free" is not a profit center, so why would they be inspired to improve it?
--
I tried to remain child-like, all I achieved was childish.

davidhoffman
Premium
join:2009-11-19
Warner Robins, GA
kudos:3
Because bad WiFi connectivity can make you loose customers to a new facility with better WiFi, all other things being equal. Or you just get tired of trying to make an old system work. I give you the Georgia World Congress Convention Center as an example. Tired of complaints about WiFi, they have recently upgraded to a new system. This time they understood that WiFi connectivity had to be available in every nook and cranny where the convention attendees and exhibitors might go. Also some hotel franchises in Georgia who have guests who are in Atlanta to attend events at the Convention Center. »pdf.ruckuscdn.com/case-studies/cs-gwcc.pdf.
»pdf.ruckuscdn.com/case-studies/c···edia.pdf

Managements of hotels and convention centers are coming to realize how poor some of their existing WiFi installations are. But there are a lot of frauds, con men, lousy equipment, and bad installers out there being sold as solutions to these problems. It can take a lot of due diligence to find the honest vendors and installers. So some places just give up and tell the guests that is the best they can do. If the McDonalds and Chick-Fil-As in Georgia are any example, it can take several tries before you get WiFi to work consistently well in all your locations.

LLigetfa

join:2006-05-15
Fort Frances, ON
kudos:1
said by davidhoffman:

Managements of hotels and convention centers are coming to realize how poor some of their existing WiFi installations are. But there are a lot of frauds, con men, lousy equipment, and bad installers out there being sold as solutions to these problems.

The managers are not network engineers and only understand "more bars" while the bad installers are more than happy to just crank up the power.

Setting up WiFi for room guests is one thing, but getting it right for large masses in convention centres is a whole different ballgame. How often have presenters had to ask the audience to turn off their mobile devices so that the presentation will work?
--
Strange as it seems, no amount of learning can cure stupidity, and formal education positively fortifies it. -- Stephen Vizinczey

davidhoffman
Premium
join:2009-11-19
Warner Robins, GA
kudos:3
At some point it does not matter what the installation is or how great it is. There are only 3 real channels in the 2.4GHz WiFi environment. You can only do so much when you get thousands of people using devices with automatic updating of information or streaming video/audio. Some of the biggest electronic technology conferences and conventions, with 10s of thousands of dollars to spend on the WiFi set up, failed at it. Apple and Microsoft have failed at it. They have cargo ships full of cash and gold. They still get overwhelmed by too many devices, trying to do too much, at the same time. The 5GHz spectrum will help, because it has more real channels. But it requires more line of sight solutions/APs. And it will take decades until almost all devices are capable of 802.11n 5GHz operation. Even then, if you have 10,000 people trying to steam video in 1080p60 of themselves at some convention, and chat, and get updates of their news/blogs/tweets, and order room service for later, you are going to crash the system. Wireless is not wired, but a lot of people do not get that and try to use it the same.

supergeeky

join:2003-05-09
United State
kudos:3
reply to ssavoy
Technical incompetency or ancient equipment, while certainly valid points, are not always to blame... Some systems are designed to intentionally throttle free wifi connections, leaving more bandwidth for dedicated/rented conference rooms, back-office operations, VoIP service, etc. This may be good network management to ensure every customer gets something, while not crippling internal systems - or it could simply be strategy to discourage "torrent whores"

I'm a firm believer that if your getting something for free, you should be thankful, a.k.a. you are not entitled. If your paying for wifi, that's a different story.

Many McDonald's and other "franchise systems in a box" will fall back to a dial-up modem when there is a broadband failure, when this happens the system is also supposed to tell the management company of the problem, but they either ignore it to save the cost of a truck roll, or it's just not a priority.


mozerd
Light Will Pierce The Darkness
Premium,MVM
join:2004-04-23
Nepean, ON
reply to davidhoffman
said by davidhoffman:

At some point it does not matter what the installation is or how great it is.

It actually does matter and there is ONE company that does serve wifi to a very large group of people in places like convention centers etc with very satisfactory results -- that company is XIRRUS

»www.xirrus.com/

»www.xirrus.com/customerdeploymen···lity.php

Yes, the XIRRUS solution is expensive [minimum 10K, and typically in the 60K range] --- but based on the performance the cost per satisfied user is in actually fact low when amortized in the thousands of users.
--
David Mozer
IT-Expert on Call
Information Technology for Home and Business

HELLFIRE
Premium
join:2009-11-25
kudos:18
reply to ssavoy
said by ssavoy:

I was just in a Hilton where the guest connection was throttled to 5mbps/1mbps (fine), but it's a huge conference center and they make thousands of devices share a 5-meg line throughout an entire building. Like they can't afford anything bigger.

I ran into a colleague who does network support for Hilton and got talking with him some more. Without
divulging details, suffice to say all talking points brought up here pretty much sum up why your experienced
sucked ssavoy.

Regards

stevech0

join:2006-09-17
San Diego, CA
maybe there needs to be a WiFi tip jar in the lobby. Good WiFi, get a tip.

supergeeky

join:2003-05-09
United State
kudos:3
While I like your thinking, I can tell you that most restaurants/fast food could care less about WiFi, it's something they feel "bothered" that they "have" to do to complete/stay relevant, not something they want to do. In many chains (starbucks/mcdonalds) not the franchise, nor corporate, operates the hotspot, the equipment/support/maintenance is all "outsourced" to a 3rd party.

Logistically, that means the WiFi tip jar concept does not encourage what you want it to encourage. When the operator is a 3rd party; who's metric is solely how many stores can they light up, and how fast, and how can they minimize truck rolls after the install - the feedback through the tip jar is just "lost" in the BS that is typical "corporate America".

In other venues there is some resistance because WiFi is seen as "chewing up table space" that otherwise could be used to turnover seats to paying (for food/drink) customers vs. using WiFi as a means to bring more customers in - not sure I agree with that, but the perception is out there. Perhaps the tip jar concept could help prove the latter.

In a small business, where the restaurant owner is the one who setup the hotspot, the tip jar would be good feedback and actually help to offset the operating cost, but almost certainly not cover it.

stevech0

join:2006-09-17
San Diego, CA
restaurants yes. Hotels was the topic though.
I wonder about coffee shops' WiFi - seems to encourage lounging 3 hours with one coffee.

davidhoffman
Premium
join:2009-11-19
Warner Robins, GA
kudos:3
stevech0,
As you have pointed out before, the customer has to be aware of the situation and respond with courtesy to the owner of the coffee shop or restaurant and to the other patrons. I have used WiFi for 3 hours at coffee shops, but I look up from the screen every 20 minutes or so to see how crowded the shop is getting. If the place is 50% empty I stay. When it gets to be about 85% full, I will leave. I always leave a much bigger tip in the tip jar, if I stay over 1 hour. Or I buy a bunch of pastries to go and give them out at work the next day. Or both. I also avoid hogging the WiFi capability. No HD video or streaming video if I can avoid it using lower resolution sources.

stevech0

join:2006-09-17
San Diego, CA
I'd think the owner is more concerned about table-turns per hour and an untoward appearance of some computer lounge lizards. More than once, I've seen a student/PC user in a Starbucks with feet stretched out across to a chair, laying back, sound asleep.