Navigating the Bandwidth Boom

By Trevor Warner, President & Founder, Warner Consulting Group | October 08, 2013

As a society, our Internet dependence is only in its infancy and hotels and guest scores are becoming tied to the bandwidth boom.  In Kansas City, Google implemented a fiber project in which they brought high bandwidth to residential homes.  Google divided the city into 202 fiberhoods.  If they pre-sold a designated amount of homes, they built out the network.  To date, they’ve built out 90% of the fiberhoods.  Customers who signed up had the option of 5MB for free or 1GB for $70 per month.  Comcast, in a race with Verizon FiOs is offering 305MB to residential customers.  Verizon FiOs has begun to offer 300MB; Time Warner, 100MB; and AT&T Uverse, 45MB.  The bandwidth race is on and this residential trend is setting hotel guest expectations for Internet quality and speed.
 
The hotel industry had hoped that cellular 4G would take the pressure off of guest networks, but quickly discovered that 4G is not built to meet consumer demands.  The primary reason is streaming video.  In the next 12 months, 60% of the data consumed will be streaming video.  Cellular networks are not designed to handle this amount of traffic.  They were built for voice and adapted for data.  Now, data is far more important than voice.  WiFi may or may not be the future, but it is the present.  

Facts to consider
•    Guests average 2.5 WiFi devices per guest, per room and that number is climbing.
•    In 2013, tablets are projected to outsell laptops.  
•    80% of tablets sold are WiFi only.  
•    Tablets are designed with smaller WiFi antennas which puts the burden on the WiFi network to provide a better signal to the guest room.  
•    The baseline for guest devices in the room is now the smartphone.
•    The antenna on the smartphone is smaller than that of a tablet.

Cost of connectivity
The guest hunger for bandwidth is growing faster than the cost of bandwidth is decreasing. Consider, if the average user expects two to five meg per connection in order for the network to operate seamlessly, the hotel must multiply that usage by the number of rooms and factor in multiple users per room.  Bottom line, a hotel cannot afford to supply that much bandwidth.  Understanding that this demand is on the rise, hotels must implement scalable solutions and work with partners who can monitor bandwidth usage so that when peaks are hit, a financial decision can be made on increasing the available bandwidth.  There are only a few technologies, such as fiber, that give hotels the ability to meet these requirements.  If fiber is not available, hotels must get creative with multiple circuits and onsite equipment to insure guest satisfaction.  

Meeting supply and demand
Networks are not built to support the current and coming load.  The network equipment life cycle has shrunk to 24-36 months.  The current standard is wireless N at 2.4hz and 5hz to provide both bandwidth and the proper technology to connect to the current devices.  Every time a new technology comes to market, it begins the evolution to the next step.  Networks cannot automatically adapt to the technology evolution, so we replace outdated equipment with new equipment. If you have installed a new Marriott network to standards or have a Hilton asset on the Stay Connected program, you know this network is not cheap.  These standards are accurate and sometimes outdated by the time they put the ink on the paper.  The reality for an operating hotel is the standard sets the baseline, but the individual hotel will often have to exceed the standard just to meet guest expectations.
 
To compete and stay current, hotels must partner with companies who can provide both proactive maintenance (i.e. software and firmware upgrades) and monitor the network to insure it runs as efficiently as possible for the longest possible life cycle.  Keeping a close eye on the network helps to spot the trends occurring in your own hotel(s) so you can adapt before the bad reviews hit Trip Advisor. 



What was your first job?
Paper delivery  

Who inspires you?
My family and my faith  

What are your hobbies?
Youth sports, coaching, administration and volunteering. Pay it forward in one small way.    

What technology excites you?
Like any geek, technologies that make life or work “more efficient” are always fascinating.

Sage Advice:
Be honest. People know when you are telling the truth.

What is one other job that you would like to try?   
Tour guide

What is one goal that you would like to achieve in your life?   
Raise good kids into great adults  

What three people would you invite to lunch?
Walter Payton, Jerry Seinfeld, and my mom (so I can introduce her to her four grandchildren)

What is your favorite movie?  
The Natural

What is your favorite vacation spot?   
St. Martin 

Trevor Warner is the founder and president of Warner Consulting Group (www.warnerconsultinggroup.com) and has been providing telecom and IT consulting services in this area of operations to the hospitality industry for over 18 years.

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