We’ve spoken before about how important it is for hospitality businesses to provide effective, robust WiFi networks for guests . However, building reliable wireless connectivity across a hospitality or leisure site with multiple buildings or structures can pose a major challenge. Whether your site is a hotel occupying two or more separate buildings or a holiday park containing large numbers of lodges or chalets, you need to make sure that your critical infrastructure is capable of keeping your guests online. Whilst this will typically be invisible to the eye, it will be the backbone of every device that connects to the web, including critical operational systems such as PMS and booking systems.
This is a challenging task and is beyond just ‘WiFi’ alone. Instead, other ‘wireless’ solutions such as Point-to-Point, or even Point-to-Multipoint networks can be used to achieve it. Can this be done with just WiFi? Maybe, but with limited performance, however, there’s another range of wireless options that might be better for your business and complement any WiFi network.
One of the first things you will need to consider is the sheer variety of devices your guests will bring into your venue. WiFi or WiFi networks may be standardised terminology these days, but the reality is that WiFi-enabled devices from different vendors interact and connect in different ways. It is relatively easy to control the types of devices accessing your network in a corporate setting, but it’s a little more complex in hospitality.
Your guests will have a broad array of smartphones, tablets and laptops running Android, Apple’s iOS, Windows, and many other systems for running the business ranging from credit card terminals, to EPoS, CCTV and much more from a wide range of manufacturers. So, you need to make sure that the WiFi network you have implemented is capable and resilient enough to accommodate all of these different devices and systems and still give a predictable, reliable user experience.
Businesses who are serious about keeping people and devices connected in all settings will need to ensure that their investment is served well by Enterprise-grade networks.
What is an Enterprise-grade network?
Keeping your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) as low as possible is essential in any business. By implementing an Enterprise-grade network, you will be futureproofing your business. You won’t need to upgrade again for a long time; in fact, an Enterprise-grade network will last up to three times as long as a budget setup. The value of your’s and your staff’s time is seldom quantified when implementing new systems. A system that is embedded, stable and aligned with your operational processes is key to efficiencies. Whilst change is good in some scenarios, constant change may be disruptive.
A good network should also be natively cloud-managed. This will provide you with 24/7 network management, ensuring that you have a network that performs precisely the way you expect and want it to, and provides you with system health information, security updates, performance updates and reporting. This is essential for both the client and solution provider. A single pane of glass in cloud management WiFi networks ensures every component of the network and all devices connected to it are visible and accountable. In other words, everything just works!
As this facilitates most network management tasks, you can reduce the number of visits to site saving money and increase responsiveness, which guarantees a low TCO. Additionally, most issues can be solved within minutes or hours rather than in days or a week invisibly.
Cloud management systems can also be configured to your exact requirements, so once it’s set up, you won’t need to worry about it again. The philosophy behind this is that most tasks can be done proactively and invisibly, ensuring high uptime during business hours, whether this during 8 to 8pm or 24hour operations.
However, most cloud management systems don’t allow you to manage multiple networks at once. More importantly, they won’t allow you to manage Point-to-Multipoint networks, and this can make them unworkable if you have multiple buildings and dwellings to service. Many cloud management systems may provide pretty dashboards but not the information you actually need and don’t allow for true cloud management of your network. For example, when a password is changed, the whole network should respond within minutes, regardless of the number of access points. Only Enterprise-grade networks provide the assurance this happens in a timely manner.
This is where we get technical
So, should you use WiFi or wireless? Your customers often won’t know the difference and won’t care which you use as long as it works. First, however, you need to know the pros and cons, and this is where things start to get a bit technical.
WiFi is absolutely fine for many hotels and other hospitality venues, especially if they’re contained within a single building. WiFi is a standard set by the IEEE, using frequency bands of 5Ghz and of 2.4Ghz .
Why is frequency band important? In a word, interference. For example, suppose your venue consists of multiple buildings, such as a hotel with separate cottages, a holiday park with static lodges, or even a village with no fibre broadband. In that case, utility meters, local authority devices, monitoring devices, and even RF radar can all potentially cause interference on WiFi frequencies.
Fortunately, alternative wireless solutions, such as a 60Ghz frequency band network, allow Point-to-Multipoint and don’t have the same issues with interference. We have found that this is usually the best option for our multiple-building hospitality clients. It even offers a faster connection speed than standard WiFi because of the cutting edge millimetre wave (mmWave) technology. (We did warn you it was going to get technical!)
These Point to Point or even multi Point networks can be installed with only a minimum level of disruption; generally, no digging or special permissions are required. As a result, this is a much faster and less costly solution than wired networks, including fibre. As with all things ‘wireless’, a specialist provider is best suited to make sure that you get optimal performance.
By way of an example, we helped a client in Loch Ness overcome a problem they were having with their multi-site hospitality business. They had cottages on the other side of a burn from their main building on land at different elevations. WiFi wasn’t going to work, and a cabled network simply wasn’t feasible. (In fact, the burn burst its banks, creating a mini flood. If they had decided to go down the copper/fibre cable connection route, we would have needed to replace it!) Instead, we used a Point-to-Point 60 GHz wireless network. This linked up the ultrafast internet connection* from the main building to the cottages. *(An ultrafast Fibre to the premises – FTTP – broadband connection). Suffice to say, it’s still performing well, and the client is extremely happy with it.
The right connectivity
Ideally, your wireless network should be underpinned by super or ultrafast, reliable Fibre ISP connectivity. However, the standard Openreach based connections may not suit your needs. Openreach-based ISPs offer a Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) connection, but large hospitality venues with over 15 rooms or multiple buildings may need a higher speed and reliable Fibre-to-Premises (FTTP) connection. In other words, you want a fast fibre connection that comes right to your door. You should also make sure that you get a service level agreement (SLA) in place to ensure that connectivity is assured to all critical WiFi network installations.
There are many aspects to ensuring a great WiFi experience for your customers and staff. Regardless of size, location, number of dwellings/buildings, the right technology strategy is also key to your network positively impacting business productivity.
Freedom Hotspot has expertise in the WiFi big-picture and how to get connectivity right for any business or organisation. With experience of a wide range of wireless solutions (including WiFi) required to give your business the boost it needs, our friendly team are here to listen, learn and help. We can work with you, no matter the complexity, size of establishment, or how many buildings or structures you have on-site. To find out more and get expert help with your WiFi or other wireless networks, speak to us now! Call us on 0800 311 2190 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org