There Is No Such Thing As Free Wi-Fi In Hotels

In the past most hotels charged extra for Wi-Fi Internet connectivity and while today some still do there is a growing trend to offer it for free. I wonder, however, what the motive is behind this trend.

More often than not, this "free" Wi-Fi Internet access is shoddy at best and doesn't work at all during busy times, i.e. in the evenings when people come back to their rooms. There are several reasons for this ranging from low signals to under dimensioned backhaul. During daytime, downlink speeds might exceed 10 MBit/s but when testing the uplink I seldom get more than 1 MBit/s. These numbers tell two stories: For one, it shows that no sort of traffic shaping is applied that could help handle the load when many users are online. And second, the uplink is the real problem as it saturates very quickly when the number of users increases taking downlink performance with it. A deadly combination for any network. But even with traffic shaping a 1 MBit/s uplink or even less is just not enough these days, when every hotel guest seems to bring at least 3 Wi-Fi capable devices ranging from notebooks over smartphones to tablets.

So "offering the Wi-Fi for free" is perhaps just the realization that you can't ask for money for something that regularly breaks down. Too much trouble with the guests. So I regularly go back to my 3G connectivity solution which is not free, but it works, at least in those countries with affordable local or roaming rates.

4 thoughts on “There Is No Such Thing As Free Wi-Fi In Hotels”

  1. 10Mb/s down, 1Mbps up… To me it looks like the bottleneck is an ADSL line, not WIFI… With wifi, the downlink is hurt before the uplink in general.

  2. I agree with your description of the common lack of quality to “free wifi”.
    However I think we need to make a differtiation between providing wifi for free or “not charging extra for wifi”. It’s only a perception issue but I object having to pay extra to use wifi in a hotel (or any other public venue) but I would not have an issue if a small increase in the room rate for isntance would guarantee a quality wifi service. Taking the avergae European hotel size of 96 rooms a 1 euro charge on all rooms would give the hotel between 50 – 75 euro *per day* to invest in a quality wifi service. That’s a minumum of 18250 euro per year. More than enough for quality AP’s and a big fat pipe.

  3. Hi Evert,

    now that is an interesting calculation, I never calculated it that way. 18k a year, that should very well pay for a fat pipe + installation costs + proper network management.


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