BRING YOUR OWN DEVICE / BRING YOUR OWN CONTENT
As a larger and larger percentage of the population now own some kind of smart device (Phone or Tablet) it’s only logical that they will bring it with them when they come to stay at your hotel. More importantly, they expect to be able to use their device at your hotel as they do at home. This is where the challenge lies and below we will look at some of the issues that this BYOD and BYOC revolution are creating for hotels.
Why Are More Of My Guests Demanding Wireless?
The portable devices that your guests are bringing are dependent on wireless for Internet connectivity as they don’t have an Ethernet port. This means that there is a greater demand for wireless at your hotel. It also means a greater demand for hotel wide wireless. Guests now expect wireless to be available everywhere on your property, in the guest rooms, restaurants and also areas such as by the pool.
Why Are Guests Complaining About My Wireless Coverage?
Wireless antennas on tablets and smart phones are weaker than those on laptops. This may mean that your existing wireless infrastructure (which was probably designed to support laptops) does not provide adequate coverage for portable devices. As a result, guests may not be able to access the wireless from certain locations; this is what we call a ‘black spot’. Generally additional Wireless Access Points need to be added to the network to address this.
Why Has My Bandwidth Consumption Grown So Much?
Tablets (iPads/ Samsung Galaxy etc) are having and impact on the demand for bandwidth as they are very video centric devices, and video content uses a lot more bandwidth than text based content such as email. As a result, hotels have seen bandwidth consumption by guests double year-on-year over the last couple of years. This trend is not only likely to continue, but we will probably see bandwidth requirements accelerate even faster.
Why Are My Guests Complaining About Our Internet Service?
Guests are now checking in with multiple devices. 40% of guests have 2 or more Wi-Fi devices and 25% have 3 or more Wi-Fi devices. This has two implications; firstly greater bandwidth is required and secondly, your Internet service needs to allow for guests to connect multiple devices simultaneously. Many guest Internet services I have seen only allow you to connect one device per subscription. If this is the case, you will probably face quite a few complaints.
In addition, when it comes to the quality of the Internet service you provide to your guests, they expect it to be just as good as they have at home, if not better, and if they have a bad experience they may not return to your hotel.
So both factors – more devices per guest, and the increased demand for bandwidth due the video-centric nature of what they access has put a lot of pressure on your available bandwidth.
Should Internet Access Be Free at Hotels?
This is a whole topic in its own right. However, in my opinion with the increasing demand for more bandwidth along with demand for better wireless coverage it is going to be difficult for hotels to provide an unlimited Internet service for free. Instead, I believe that a tiered service will be the most common way forward for guest Internet access.
Under a tiered solution there could be an entry level service for free or at a very nominal fee which is mainly for emails and web browsing, and then a higher level offer which is user pays. There could even be a couple of levels of service that provide differing levels of bandwidth /download and allow for more devices to be simultaneously connected.
By example, a business traveler may need to access emails and do a little web research – they would select a service offering at the lower end of the scale.
Another business traveler may have 3 devices; a laptop, an iPad, a Smartphone, they may want all three of them connected. In addition, they may be doing some video conferencing which is bandwidth intensive so they would choose a plan at the higher end of the tiered structure which is appropriate to meet their requirements.
How do I Offer a Tiered Internet Access Service?
If you are offering a tiered service, I believe it is imperative that your bandwidth be segregated or compartmentalised so that those guests that are paying for the better service actually get it. To give you an example, let’s say you have a 10Mb connection into your property so via the server that provides guest Internet you may allocate 1.5Mb to the Free Service, 2.5 Mb to the first tier chargeable service and 4.5Mb to the second tier chargeable service and the remaining 1.5Mb allocated to function rooms. This will ensure that those paying for the Premium Service receive a premium service and those that choose the free service cannot impact on the Premium Service offering.
How Many Power Outlets should I Provide?
Of course, the other impact that all of these devices is bringing with them is an increased demand for power outlets, all of these devices need to be charged. I believe that there should be at least two free power outlets beside the bed for the guest and up to four at the desk. Ideally these are at ‘desk height’ so guests aren’t crawling around on the floor.
Are All Power Outlets the Same?
These days, power outlets need to be ‘transformer friendly’, basically spaced apart from one another and not against skirting boards or desks.
As a good example, I was at a property recently, they had done a wonderful job in refurbishing the rooms. They had four power outlets available at the desk for the guest, however they were installed too close to the desk and you couldn’t fit your iPhone charger into the power socket and use it.
There are now also power points with additional USB sockets built into them that will overcome that problem. Given that USB charging has become the default standard these power sockets make perfect sense.
Connectivity To The TV Why Do Guests Keep Fiddling with my TV?
Many guests want to stream or play content that they have on their devices on the TV which you have so kindly provided. BYOC (Bring Your Own Content) means that guests may have their own movies, TV shows, music or other items they want to play back. It may be a USB hard drive, an Apple TV box or a portable gaming console they want to connect. I know two professionals that work for large multinational companies that stay in 5 star hotels and they always take their portable gaming consoles with them. Alternatively your guests may want to catch-up on TV shows they missed etc via the Internet. Basically, they want to watch it on a big screen not their phone or tablet so they try to connect their devices to your TV.
How Can I Let Guests Connect to my TV?
The key thing here is to make sure they can easily connect to the TV without damaging it or impacting the next guest to occupy the room. You need to make sure the TV ports are accessible to the guest (is the TV wall mounted, can it be swivelled). Are the ports are un-locked and can the guest use the movie providers remote control to get to the port once they have connected their device (many of the Movie providers remotes don’t have an AV or Source button!). You also need to consider things like the length of the antenna cable, so that when the guest swivels the TV it will not get ripped out the socket or damage the TV. I have spoken with a number of properties that have had their TVs damaged by guests as they get behind them with the repair cost per TV being between $85 to $100.
What are Connectivity Panels and what do they do?
A Connectivity panel allows guests to plug into the panel and watch what is, say on their laptop or iPad on the In-Room TV. Many properties are now looking at installing a Connectivity Panel simply because they allow the guest to plug their device into it without the need for the guest to tamper with the TV. Connectivity Panels are now available from less than $100.
What is the Impact of BYOD and BYOC?
Increasingly, technology is less about what hotels provide and more about accommodating what guests are bringing. Your guests will arrive at your property with their own device (BYOD) and their own entertainment/content (BYOC). They will want to use these devices during their stay, just as they do at home and at the office. The key for hotels is to provide them with the infrastructure and the bandwidth to achieve this.