best practices for planning powerful hotel wifi network

Best Practices When Planning Your Hotel WiFi Network

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Hotel WiFi is a foundational element to running a successful hospitality business. Boosting the internet speeds for guests is a simple yet effective way to improve a hotel’s service and reputation. However, designing a hotel WiFi network isn’t as simple as plugging in a router.

Without taking the proper approach to hotel WiFi network design, hoteliers run the risk of providing poor service that limits possibilities. Those limitations go beyond simple internet connectivity for individual guests in their rooms, an already challenging task that, if executed poorly, will cause guests to be angry and unsatisfied with their stay. Hotel WiFi needs to be strong across the board to support conferences, business meetings, and other gatherings.

A strong hotel WiFi system is a pillar for business success in the hospitality industry. Properly investing in it from the start will play a significant role in achieving long-term success. This isn’t the kind of situation where, in a few years, simply replacing a router will upgrade speeds or help solve connectivity issues. WiFi networks and the technology that support them are ever-evolving and they need to be constantly understood, maintained, and advanced.

How to Make Hotel WiFi Better

Strong hotel WiFi is a beneficial marketing tool. It helps create a positive guest experience, and acts as a selling point for hotels against the competition. Providing the best network possible is not easy or simple, but that shouldn’t stop hoteliers from ensuring their hotel has the best connectivity possible. The following strategies and best practices will help outline how to effectively improve your hotel WiFi.

Hotel WiFi Network Design – Best Practices Checklist

Like all networks and pipelines for information, a well-designed system built upon a strong foundation will lead to the best internet connectivity possible. There are a few simple tricks to upgrading a WiFi network, but when thinking about how to truly elevate your hotel’s connectivity, it’s best to start at the beginning.

What are the best practices for setting up hotel WiFi? Before getting too far into the technical details, let’s break down the basics.

  • Find the best network company for your needs. The network company setting up and installing a custom hotel WiFi system must be experienced and have an extensive history of planning.
  • Ensure the WiFi company offers 24/7 support for any troubleshooting or complications.
  • Make sure the hotel WiFi infrastructure includes a comprehensive real-time WiFi network dashboard to view device counts, bandwidth usage, network device uptime, and other settings for your own network.
  • Utilize a hotel WiFi network diagram to guide the construction of the network, remaining mindful of any building or structural obstacles.
  • Create KPIs to measure network success, tracking and monitoring things such as the total number of devices and bandwidth usage peak times.
  • Allow guests to use VPNs. There’s no harm in doing so, and charging extra or limiting VPN access does nothing but negatively impact the guest experience.

Understanding Best Uses of Hotel Wireless Equipment

Now that we’ve covered some basics, let’s explore more specific best practices, starting with the need for reliable network equipment. To run a reliable, flexible WiFi network, hotels need to utilize the right equipment when building their network. Here are a couple of equipment-related best practices hoteliers should consider for optimal WiFi performance:

Considering SoHo vs. Enterprise Equipment

The old saying, “If you buy cheap, you buy twice,” applies to creating an effective hotel WiFi network. When it comes to equipment, there is a massive difference between SoHo-class gear versus Enterprise-class gear.

SoHo-class gear is not only cheaper in cost, but cheaper in quality. It lacks the required capabilities in RAM, CPU, antennas, and hardware in comparison to Enterprise gear. If a network is built upon sub-par equipment, the results of connectivity performance will continue to get worse at every stage. This will negatively impact not only guests, but also staff functions within the hotel. Ultimately, it will lead to a higher cost to replace the outdated equipment.

In order to prevent this connectivity headache, consider utilizing Enterprise gear from the onset of your installation. As aforementioned, Enterprise access points deliver superior RAM, CPU, antennas, and hardware compared to SoHo equipment. These access points can meet the needs of more WAN interfaces, access higher bandwidth, and more, allowing you to deliver quality, uninterrupted service to a hotel’s guests and employees.

Understanding Proper Access Point Placement

Access points are key to ensuring all hotel guests gain equal access to your network. As such, it’s essential hoteliers place access points in places conducive to property-wide connectivity.

Wireless access points work best when in the line of sight of devices. Think of access point placement as similar to placing things like fire sprinkler heads, smoke detectors, or exit signs. When planning the placement of access points, placing them in areas where they can provide the highest level of coverage is essential.

With that said, you shouldn’t plan to place as many access points as possible across your hotel. Access points are built on contention-based protocol, meaning the priority should be a good design that allows for providing efficient WiFi versus over-saturation. This will also help save your hotel time and money.

Choosing The Right Antennas

When it comes to antennas, hotels have many different options. Some people argue that built-in omnidirectional antennas are the only way to go but that’s a limited way of thinking. Directional antennas can be useful to direct powerful signals to specific, hard-to-reach spaces, while certain properties may need outdoor omni antennas to reach poolside guests.

Ultimately, an expert is required to determine which type of antenna is best suited for your hotel and its connectivity needs. Our team offers free consultations to assist hotels in understanding the unique needs of their property.

Channel Plans, Knowing the Difference Between 2.4GHz and 5GHz, and Channel Width

Proper WiFi design and deploying a wireless network require a channel plan that efficiently utilizes channel width. Ensuring a channel plan is well-thought-out will help make certain that a WiFi system is operating at its highest capacity, taking advantage of the physical space available to optimize speed. Utilizing this space is a vital pillar for a high-performing WiFi system — let’s dive into why.

Adjacent Channel Interference

Wireless communication happens when a station — a WiFi access point, such as a tablet or a phone — has something to transmit. To do this, the channel for communication must be clear, as only one device can transmit at a time. Sometimes devices will transmit regardless of what’s happening on other channels, which slows down connectivity for everyone. This is called Adjacent Channel Interference.

To provide the best hotel WiFi possible, channels must be cleared and optimized through proper structuring and channel plans, offering wide bandwidth that can power multiple devices. Leveraging smart channel structure, such as determining the proper channel width for your hotel, will ensure you can avoid adjacent channel interfaces.

What Is Channel Width?

Channel width is, in the simplest terms, how much space a transmission takes up on a channel. This is measured in MHz. On average, a signal uses 20MHz, but depending on the frequency bandwidth of a channel — 2.4GHz, 5GHz, etc. — it could be more. In general, for hospitality spaces like hotels or conference centers, utilizing a 20MHz channel width is recommended so that available frequency isn’t limited.

2.4GHz vs 5GHz: What Is the Best WiFi Frequency Band for Hotels?

Primarily, there are two different frequency bands that WiFi systems utilize in a channel plan: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. These frequency bands aren’t specific to WiFi, though. Both bands provide space for other forms of connectivity, such as Bluetooth. In general, 2.4GHz is a more dated technology than 5GHz.

2.4GHz Channel Planning

As stated, 2.4GHz is dated technology. 2.4GHz provides 11 channels for connectivity but only 3 of them do not interfere with each other. This causes the band to be crowded, over-saturated, and challenging to design around. There is simply not enough space for signals to be transmitted optimally.

However, 2.4GHz remains necessary because many common devices still utilize the 2.4 GHz band. Although utilizing 2.4GHz technology is frustrating, it can help ensure that these guest devices work appropriately.

5GHz Channel Planning

5GHz offers much more spectrum than 2.4GHz. Every channel in a 5GHz network occupies its own 20MHz space, not colliding with others. This means that each channel can run uninterrupted, easily connecting to access points and generally running more efficiently. As such, these networks are preferable for hospitality WiFi networks — especially when reviewing the connectivity aspects of the majority of devices that support it.

What Channel Width Is Right for Your Hotel WiFi Network?

The channel width you choose for your hotel WiFi network will play a major factor in the quality of WiFi you receive. The wider the channel, the more data can be pushed through it at once. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should select the widest channel possible – if it is not needed it can create a new set of issues.

Standard 20MHz channels are what make the most sense to set for a hotel. Depending on the type of equipment, these channels can connect with other channels to form stronger connections and push more data through the pipelines simultaneously.

Ensuring Optimal, Unobtrusive Guest WiFi Access

Once equipped with the right equipment and leveraging skillful channel design, hotels have several options about how to offer WiFi to guests. Here are key questions to ask when implementing a network, and how to ensure guest connections are painless.

Should Hotels Turn Off Low Data Rates?

Hotels should turn off supported data rates of 1, 2, 5.5, and 11 MBPS. This type of technology is archaic, and it is doubtful that hotel guests utilize this technology anyway. Moreover, this type of technology creates unnecessary risk to the connectivity of the network overall.

What About Captive Portals for WiFi Access?

Captive portals offer utility to hoteliers to both collect guest information and ensure network privacy. Through analytics provided by captive portals, hoteliers can discriminate where traffic is coming from and discover potential hackers or unwanted users. Hotels can then modify networks to prevent these users from logging on again — reserving bandwidth for guests.

Portals can also collect user information, requiring emails and occasionally social accounts to sign-in. Using this data, hotels can create custom welcome pages for guests based on demographic parameters, advertising amenities and services best suited for each guest.

Is It OK to Allow Hotel Guests to Use VPNs?

Yes, it’s fine to allow hotel guests to use VPNs. Limiting VPN use for guests or charging guests for using VPNs only achieves one result: creating a negative guest experience – something that should be avoided at all costs.

Transform Your Hotel Guest Experience with the Best Possible Managed WiFi System

A surefire way to guarantee a guest has a great experience in a hotel is by providing an exceptional WiFi experience. The modern world requires fast connectivity — and whether a guest is working from the road or watching Netflix by the pool, they do not want their experience to be interrupted. As a hotel, a strong and consistent WiFi experience is not only a way to create a satisfied customer, but can also increase the likelihood that guests will return. Improve your hotel WiFi with Hospitality Network today.