The last several times I have stayed in Ireland and London, my wireless Internet became so horrific in the evening hours that I ended up walking down the street to work at the local Internet cafe. I’ll admit that hotel Internet service is hit or miss – sometimes it is fine , and other times it is terrible. Why does this happen?
To start to understand why slow Internet service persists at many hotels you must understand the business model.
Most hotel chains are run by Real Estate and Management type companies, they do not know the intricacies of wireless networks any more than they can fix a broken U-Joint on the hotel airport van. Hence, they hire out their IT – both for implementation and design consulting. The marching orders to their IT consultant is usually to build a system that generates revenue for the hotel. How can we charge for this service? The big cash cow for the hotel industry used to be the phone system, and then with advent of cell phones that went away. Then it was On-Demand Movies (mostly porn) , and that is fading fast. Competing on great free Internet service between operators has not been a priority. However, even with concessions to this model of business, there is no reason why it cannot be solved.
There are a multitude of reasons that Internet service can gridlock in a hotel, sometimes it is wireless interference, but by far the most common reason is too many users trying to watch video during peak times (maybe a direct result of pay on demand movies). When this happens you get the rolling brown out. The service works for 30 seconds or so, duping you into thinking you can send an e-mail or finish a transaction; but just you as you submit your request, you notice everything is stuck, with no progress messages in the lower corner of your browser. And then, you get an HTTP time out. Wait perhaps 30 seconds, and all of a sudden things clear up and seem normal only to repeat again .
The simple solution for this gridlock problem is to use a dynamic fairness device such as our NetEqualizer. Many operators take the first step in bandwidth control and use their routers to enforcing fixed rate limits per customer, however this will only provide some temporary relief and will not work in many cases.
The next time you experience the rolling brown out, send the hotel a link to this blog article (if you can get the email out). The hotels that we have implemented our solution at are doing cartwheels down the street and we’d be happy to share their stories with anybody who inquires.