‘Wifiis becoming much more than simple internet access’

Accom Management Guide Spring 2016

HOW THE WORLD HAS CHANGED. FOR MANY OF US, IT DOESN’T SEEM TOO LONG AGO THAT IT WAS NOT EVEN CONSIDERED, BUT FAST RELIABLE GUEST INTERNET IS NOW OFTEN REGARDED AS ESSENTIAL IN ANY ACCOMMODATION PROPERTY.

Big, expensive hotels and motels could not consider being without it for their corporate guests and comfortably off international patrons who will often be used to excellent overseas standards, but even for holiday parks and backpackers, so pervasive is modern electronic communications technology that even they take a risk in being without it. It is these cheaper accommodation providers who depend more on younger guests for their custom and it is the youth market that is most heavily dependent on access to the internet.

There will still be the occasional older single guest or couple who has not been dragged in, but they are now a rare species, and becoming rarer all the time. Some smaller moteliers or similar accommodation providers will at least
inwardly grumble at the cost, but if they wish to compete in today’s market, they might feel they have little choice. A question about the internet will now very often be the very first question a guest asks – before they even book.

Australian situation So what is the situation here?

Do Australian accommodation providers feel the same pressure as their contemporaries overseas?

And what standards and service should they expect from those in the internet industry?

AMG asked Judy Senn, director of Time Out Internet; a series of questions to ascertain their thoughts on the
issue:

Is guest wifi essential for an accommodation property and why?
Time Out Internet: Absolutely imperative – guests expect free wifi – everyone is travelling with devices to stay in contact or travelling for business. Connectivity is important and a major part of everyone’s day.

How important is research when looking for a provider?
Time Out Internet: Extremely important – by purchasing or locking yourself into a contract with the supplier of a wifi system that does not suit the needs of the property now or into the future, will only cause headaches and negative reviews for the accommodation provider, and cost them more money in the long run.  The accommodation provider needs to understand what they want to achieve both now and in the future. Technology is changing fast, data usage amounts are increasing and devices are getting smaller with smaller antennas, meaning they need to be closer to the wifi devices submitting the signal to work effectively.

Smart TVs are becoming more prevalent and people are travelling with Netflix on their devices, and want to use them.  Updates to devices are becoming larger.

Before making any decisions, ensure you are comparing apples to apples – every wifi supplier has a different business model. Free installation sounds desirable but you need to be sure what you will get for it. For instance, how
much does it cost to give 500Mb or 1Gb of free data per day per room/unit?
Read their testimonials and call their existing customers.

What are your costs and how are they distributed – e.g. one-off or profit share?
Time Out Internet: We offer two pricing options – a capital purchase or a two-year lease option. The capital purchase option includes the preconfigured wifi equipment and installation (if it is a remote site, the accommodation provider
generally organises for a licensed data cabler to install the equipment).
There is an ongoing annual fee for access to our control server and support.
The two-year lease option includes the preconfigured wifi equipment and installation (if it is a remote site, the accommodation provider generally organises for a licensed data cabler to install the equipment) and includes
two years’ of access to our control server and support.

Our system allows the client to do whatever they want with their data – they supply the internet connection. They can offer an amount of free data per day per room/unit that renews at the same time every day autonomously. This data figure can be adjusted at any time – we set everything up in the admin area and provide training – and are always contactable to help change data plans and passwords details. The client can sell other data plans on the login screen – they set the pricing and receive 100 per cent of the revenue.

How do you ensure wifi coverage throughout the property?
Time Out Internet: It all depends on the site and what the client wants to achieve. We always discuss the options with the client and ensure they understand the capabilities of the system we are proposing. E.g. if they want to use Smart TVs in all rooms, they need an in-room wifi system with an NBN connection or a fast download/upload speed on their internet connection. One ADSL2 connection on an external wifi system will not suffice.

What bandwidth and internet speed do you guarantee?
Time Out Internet: The accommodation provider provides the internet connection for the wifi system – we are impartial as to which Internet service provider they choose to use. We can guide them as to the best requirement
for what they are trying to achieve. Depending on what speeds connection is available from the Internet service
supplier, we will supply equipment to match or exceed these speeds.

What ongoing support does your company offer?
Time Out Internet: We offer the highest level of support for our customers and their guests, seven days a week from 8am-7pm.

Is there anything you regard as special about your company’s service?
Time Out Internet: Our system lets the accommodation provider do what they want to do with their data. It is unique, easy to use and not an off-the-shelf product. We own the intellectual property and our control server was
built to provide our customers with all the features and functionality they require – with minimal work required by them. We are continuously releasing new features based on customer feedback.

By Brent Leslie, Industry Reporter

Judy also added the following to help you.

Ask the wifi supplier these questions:
• Does the wifi system allow for conference usage?
• If you have a conference facility/meeting rooms, what is the maximum number of concurrent users/devices that may be online in the conference facility at the one time?
• Can you have one login for multiple conference users so that you don’t have to give a separate login to every conference attendee?
• Can you get a report at the end of the conference with the amount of data used by the conference and charge the conference organiser for the usage?
Before making any decisions, ensure you are comparing apples to apples – every wifi supplier has a different business model.

• Read their testimonials.
• Call their existing customers and find out how their wifi system is going.
• Has it met their business needs?
• Is it easy to use – for them and for their guests?
• How is the support for them and their guests?
• Would they recommend the wifi supplier?

I hope that this helps in your path to finding a wifi supplier for your business. Ask the questions. Gather your information. Make informed decisions.

By Judy Senn, Director, Time Out Internet