From the outset, most hotels have followed a seesaw approach for installing Wi-Fi – updating WAP hardware followed by bandwidth circuits back-and-forth. Historically, this was sufficient as the delivery challenges were typically at one end of the network or the other, and as a result, hotels often overlooked the transport network in the middle. But today new factors are requiring that properties rethink this approach. The advent of Wi-Fi 6, the increased availability of multi-gigabit circuits, and the trend of brands evolving throughput standards, are requiring properties to start looking at their overall network infrastructure – not just access points and bandwidth out the back door – to identify chokepoints that could inhibit the combined throughput of guest usage.
Today, for the first time, these throughput chokepoints are appearing more often in the middle of the network equation - in the switches, backbones, gateways or connections into switches. For example, a property could have recently updated its access points and have modern Wi-Fi with lots of bandwidth but if the interface on its switches is set to 100 MB rather than 1 GB, it could still experience lag time, and connectivity/performance issues. Another example would be a property that has fairly new network equipment but the backbone wiring that has served the hotel for years does not support the bandwidth delivery objectives.
And the stakes for hotels are higher than ever before. In a recent report from Cisco, 61% of consumers indicate that their expectations for digital services have changed forever, and they will no longer tolerate poor performance. An additional 72% of consumers believe it’s the responsibility of the brand to ensure that digital services work perfectly. With guests increasingly using streaming services and video chat technologies during their hotel stays, high quality Wi-Fi is critical to a positive guest experience and lag time and poor performance will reflect poorly on the property.
Below are three ways that properties can improve performance by considering their transport network:
- The best way for a property to mitigate against poor network performance is to evaluate its complete network infrastructure and formulate a plan for rectification. This is where it is critical to have a network expert in your corner. Most properties can’t take on a soup-to-nuts network upgrade all at once – it is not economical and with today’s staffing shortages, properties often don’t have the in-house resources for this initiative. A trusted network provider can help properties conduct a proactive review of the active and physical network to ensure that service-impacting chokepoints do not exist in the delivery architecture. If chokepoints are found, the network provider can then work with the property to create a customized, phased upgrade strategy that solves issues within the specific constraints of the property.
- Another way for properties to enhance network performance as part of a phased upgrade or as they wait in line for equipment, is to look for ways to maximize the efficiency of their current network. Again, network engineers can consider the middle of the transport network and dial variables such as throttling, interfaces, cabling and so on to make meaningful adjustments. For example, if a hotel has a GPON network with shared infrastructure, the hardware can run for a long time without an upgrade, but the split ratio can be dialed to optimize performance. By changing the ratio from 1:32 to 1:16 a hotel can greatly expand the throughput performance of its network.
- The third way for properties to address chokepoints more proactively is to work with their network provider to implement real-time performance sensors, such as the Aruba UXI, that can provide a real-time, network-and-LSP-agnostic view of the customer experience. These type sensors act as an end-user and not only test the typical network performance but also run synthetic testing of typical guest actions such as streaming Netflix videos, downloading Dropbox files, making Teams or Skype calls. This will give properties a deeper view into the experience of guests on the network and find opportunities to fine-tune infrastructure as problems arise.
With increased strains on hotel networks and new technologies impacting the state of the industry, hotels must get off the seesaw and delve a little deeper into their infrastructure to ensure they’re delivering the high quality Wi-Fi that guests expect. The network infrastructure that has served the hotel for years may need an inspection and tune-up. Assessing the complete network infrastructure to identify and remediate commonly missed chokepoints and find opportunities to make existing networks more efficient can deliver considerable performance gains.