by Russell Vest

Guests inherently expect some things at a hotel. They expect the lights to work when they flip the switch, water to flow from the faucet and in-room air conditioning to adjust to their needs. These infrastructure issues appear seamless to the guest, but require significant behind-the-scenes effort to ensure 100 percent guest satisfaction.

The same is true of wireless infrastructure. Seamless commercial cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity is an integral part of the guest experience. Guests’ mobile connectivity requires a robust and propertywide, integrated communications network. However, unlike lighting, plumbing and air management infrastructures, many properties have limited commercial or cellular connectivity. This results in frustrated guests and, with the rise in social media, potential exposure to negative online sentiments.

Consider this: An arriving guest, John Doe, CEO, has just exited the airport taxi. He’s wrapping up a mobile call while completing check-in. The front desk manager hands him a memo confirming his group is waiting in the Evergreen parlor on the mezzanine. This is a critical investor meeting. Simultaneously, John receives a text from his executive assistant alerting him to an e-mail with a critical change in information for the meeting. On his way to the mezzanine, John starts the e-mail download to his iPad® but hits a dead zone. Repeatedly, he tries downloading to no avail. We’re all familiar with the resulting negative reaction that follows at the front desk because John Doe is late, frustrated and now unprepared. As a seasoned traveler, he expected the same level of seamless mobile connectivity he had at the airport, in Starbucks and walking down the street.

The CIO Challenge

Today guests expect connectivity on multiple devices. Some hotels address this by enabling guest device connection to in-room TVs and multimedia devices to provide a seamless at-home or at-work type of experience.

In the new landscape, CIOs need to provide guests with high-speed Internet access (HSIA). The hiccup of course is seamless access–a critical challenge hospitality CIOs face. Determining the most reliable and affordable technology solution available to meet guest mobility needs now and into the future is not easy.

Network Technology Choices

Many hospitality CIOs address this by first providing HSIA service with Wi-Fi. This is a logical choice because Wi-Fi is flexible, easy to manage and well accepted by guests and their devices. Equally important, Wi-Fi enables hotels to own, manage and deliver their own brand of wireless service. However, Wi-Fi has downsides. It requires significant capex investment and recurring opex by the hotel. It also misses the mark in addressing the seamless mobile voice and data connectivity required and frustrates guests with multiple levels of login and authentication.

Alternatively, hotels can investigate the value of providing a commercial-grade mobile or cellular service across the property. Commercial-grade networks are the same type of networks that guests experience from the existing outdoor networks prior to arrival at the property. When commercial mobile or cellular service is integrated throughout the facility, problems like those faced by John Doe, CEO, are avoided. Seamless connectivity issues related to voice and data are resolved.

Wi-Fi and commercial mobile or cellular technology can be optimized further. Today, providing an interoperable mobile/cellular network with Wi-Fi support is the boost many hospitality CIOs are seeking to offer guests. When both Wi-Fi and cellular networks are optimized, the guest experience is optimal. Together these technologies deliver a robust network capability to ensure the guest has the mobility experience they want. A properly designed interoperable, cellular and Wi-Fi network achieves expected results through the interoperability of the guest device. This ensures satisfaction for guests using different carriers and multiple devices, and helps to avoid dead zones even with large events.

To read more about the Business Model Considerations from this author please click here:

Russell Vest is executive director of business development for ExteNet Systems.

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