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Expensive Hotels Really Do Have Faster Wi-Fi 72

Posted by timothy
from the starbucks-is-my-airport-lounge dept.
OpenSignal, by means of mobile apps for iOS and Android, has been amassing data on Wi-Fi and cell-network signal strength. They released yesterday a few of their findings on the speed of Wi-Fi available at U.S. chain hotels (download speeds, specifically). Though it shouldn't be surprising that (as their data shows) more expensive hotels generally have faster speeds, I know it hasn't always matched my own experience. (Hotel chains also vary, even within brands, in whether the in-room Wi-Fi is free, cheap, or exorbitant.) If the in-room connection is flaky or expensive, though, from the same report it seems you'll do better by popping into a Google-networked Starbucks location than one fed by AT&T, and McDonalds beats Panera Bread by quite a bit.
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Expensive Hotels Really Do Have Faster Wi-Fi

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  • by robstout (2873439) on Thursday August 07, 2014 @01:38PM (#47624223)
    If WIFI is free, everyone will use it, clogging up the pipes. If there's a charge, less people will be on, making more BW available for those who shell out the cash. I also hope that the hotels that charge use the money to miantain the infrastructure, but that's wishful thinking on my part.
    • I've found this matches my experience flying too.

      Southwest charges very little, and it's not even worth it. But us air charges 2-3x as much and is a decent value ($4/hour about on a cross country flight).

      • by jeffmeden (135043)

        I've found this matches my experience flying too.

        Southwest charges very little, and it's not even worth it. But us air charges 2-3x as much and is a decent value ($4/hour about on a cross country flight).

        Its a joke on Southwest because they are busy piping DirecTV to all the passengers (as a paid advertisement for DirecTV service) so even if the backhaul isn't saturated, you will have to fight for bandwidth on the WLAN.

        • The wifi on Southwest may be a joke but the free DirecTV is good enough IFE for me... I can go without email for 5 hours.

    • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday August 07, 2014 @02:11PM (#47624589) Homepage

      Maybe it won't be good enough for Netflix streaming since they want to "upsell" you to their PPV service, but providing decent Internet should be no problem at all, not counting tropical islands and such but normal hotels in big cities. Heck, here at home I got 100/100 Mbit all to myself and it would easily let 100 people surf the web and check their mail as long as the hogs gets last priority. Hotels know they got you hooked on the convenience, you can get cheaper drinks at the corner store, cheaper food at a local restaurant and cheaper internet at an internet cafe but grabbing a drink from the minibar, order some room service and hook up the room wifi is so easy you'll overpay for it. Fortunately many hotels now consider it part of the basic service.

    • If WIFI is free, everyone will use it, clogging up the pipes. If there's a charge, less people will be on, making more BW available for those who shell out the cash. I also hope that the hotels that charge use the money to miantain the infrastructure, but that's wishful thinking on my part.

      On the other hand, I used to pick hotels based on my free WiFi experience. So if you charged for WiFi, I'm not paying for a room at your place. If two different places have free WiFi, but I had a flaky connection in one hotel,and an ok connection in another, that's the deciding factor. All other concerns were secondary.

      Of course, I would also have considered the case where the $10 a day a hotel would charge for WiFi would make up the difference in room cost, but it always turns out that expensive hotels

    • by mu51c10rd (187182)

      Having worked for an ISP specializing in hotels...your wishful thinking is quite true. Hotels that charge tend to splie the revenue between the provider and the hotel. This is a higher margin for both, which allows for better equipment and better circuits. "Free" wifi at the lower and mid tier hotel build a flat rate into the room cost, as well pay a flat rate to their provider. This is a low margin product, so they tend to have smaller circuits and lower end gear. Keep in mind, the hotels buy the circuit s

    • by mcrbids (148650)

      I've seen no such correlation.

      I recently stayed at a "fancy" hotel in Reno, NV that charged $5 for the Wifi, only to get dreadfully slow speeds. I also recently stayed at a "Best Value Inn" or something like that near Moreno Valley and despite the clearly packed night and free Wifi, speeds were excellent.

      Care to guess where I'll prefer when I'm back in either area?

    • I've never had good internet service, really good, on hotel wifi - with one exception.

      The worst was in Japan, go figure. It was down half the time, and no-one at the front desk spoke english. Fun fun fun. I was probably in the Japanese equivalent of Gary - in the ONLY Western style hotel in the city. Any more native and I'm pooping in a hole in the floor.

      My one memorable good connection - I was at a UTM appliance training session and the wifi in the room connected me to lousy service, however the training c

      • My Japan wifi experience was: amazing speeds, 20 hours a day, completely unusable for 4 hours a day. Fortunately there was an ethernet port - far more valuable to me than wifi.

        • My Japan wifi experience was: amazing speeds, 20 hours a day, completely unusable for 4 hours a day. Fortunately there was an ethernet port - far more valuable to me than wifi.

          Yeah, before I went to Japan my "assumption" was that every square inch of the place was wired. Internet everywhere. All I'd ever seen was pictures of that one busy street in Tokyo with all the lights and glitz.

          This was in Onoda, and we were staying in what I heard was "the only" western style hotel. If I recall it was a wired connection only, and the entire service would go down periodically, pretty much daily. I'd have to go to the front desk and say "internet down. no internet. can please fix?" or someth

    • by mjwx (966435)

      If WIFI is free, everyone will use it, clogging up the pipes.

      Free != uncontrolled.

      I stay in a lot of hotels in SE Asia (willing to bet this study was conducted in the US and maybe Europe) and when one hotel put a password on a previously unsecured wifi, performance for guests increased significantly. This was because the staff weren't given the password. So 60 devices simply disappeared off the network. Basically how good a network is depends on how it is set up and managed. Basically hotels that care will have a good connection.

      I've stayed in a few hotels with

  • by Voyager529 (1363959) <`voyager529' `at' `yahoo.com'> on Thursday August 07, 2014 @01:47PM (#47624321)

    Part of this could indeed be network infrastructure - more expensive hotels can afford more robust networking solutions and wireless installers worth a damn that can optimize the way the network works. Other reasons could be upstream - more affluent hotels in more affluent areas will find cable companies caring *just* enough to split nodes where necessary, so the fancier hotels are less limited by their upstream providers.

    More likely though, people in ritzy hotels simply aren't using the Wi-Fi. Even if they're not spending the night with a hooker, they're probably using the pool or the spa or the movie theater or the 75" 4K TV in their room to use their own laptop. Some certainly will, but there's a difference between "available for use" and "the only thing to use", which is more the case with the budget hotels.

    • I've found that MANY hotels (as of two years ago anyway) seem to only have a t-1 line (symmetrical 1.x mbps at 4am being my best speed tests).

      • by jeffmeden (135043)

        I've found that MANY hotels (as of two years ago anyway) seem to only have a t-1 line (symmetrical 1.x mbps at 4am being my best speed tests).

        Many hotels (or at least the company they pay to manage their network, like Windstream) have at least a slight sense of service management, and cap single hosts to about a T1 worth at any given time. These days a 1.44Mbit downstream would be crushed after 2 users tried to get on Youtube at the same time.

        • by AvitarX (172628)

          OK, that makes sense, though during busy times, I have over 500ms ping, and under 20kbps downstream, there is no youtube to be had most of the time, I'm not convinced they had much more than a T-1 over the 150 rooms or so.

  • I've tried the free wifi at a number of Panera locations in different states over the years and generally found theirs to be amongst the worst of all free wifi setups. Half the time I couldn't even get a google search to work after logging in.
  • No, cheaper hotels have slower WiFi if they have any WiFi at all.

    • Conversely, I seem to find (in the UK at least) that cheaper ones and shops are more likely to have free WiFi, while pricier hotels and bigger chains seem to be more likely to charge for it. The poshest one I've spent any time in - part of the same chain as the Savoy in London - charges crazy prices (and has lousy mobile reception), though it's a rock-solid signal throughout the large building; a much cheaper hotel nearby just had a Wifi access point on ADSL somewhere, with no password, for anyone to use.

      A

      • by jfengel (409917)

        It's also possible that they're price-sorting. That is, people staying at expensive hotels have more money (duh). They're willing to pay more for luxuries, many of them hard to observe (more staff, more frequent replacement of linens [and more in the rotation], more expensive furnishings, etc.) The people who pay for such things have more money and you can use that to try to up-sell them.

        If they're paying $200 a night for four-star deluxe room, they've got $10 to kick in for wi-fi and not even really notice

  • In other news most Porsches have better acceleration and handling than most Fords, a large cruise liner fits more people than your dinky boat and a nuclear bomb has more 'bang' in it than a firework would.

  • by bleh-of-the-huns (17740) on Thursday August 07, 2014 @01:54PM (#47624421)
    I find that it does not matter what the hotel costs, or how fancy it is.. the internet sucks. I tend to tether to my phone and use LTE as the hotel internet is worthless for anything other than check email.. Certainly not Netflix streaming.
    • by swb (14022)

      I kind of thought this is what everyone did anymore -- tether to LTE phone and just skip whatever stupidity the hotel supplies. It's more than adequate for email, web browsing, and remote access. Any multi-gig downloads needed would happen on a remote server anyway.

      If I'm on business, I'll usually try the hotel connectivity to see how it is. Unfortunately the annoyance is often more than just weak wifi, it's periodically losing connectivity and having to "sign on" again through some kind of portal page,

      • by mjwx (966435)

        I kind of thought this is what everyone did anymore -- tether to LTE phone and just skip whatever stupidity the hotel supplies. It's more than adequate for email, web browsing, and remote access. Any multi-gig downloads needed would happen on a remote server anyway.

        This isn't very good for international travellers.

        Not everywhere has a good mobile network, I'm including the US in this. I bought my phone from Australia and I only got 200 MB of data for $45 on AT&T prepaid. Also, I'm not really going to buy a separate WiFi device for each country I travel to (If I did, I'd have almost 30 of them).

        That being said, during my travels in the US the best Wifi in the hotels I stayed at was at an ABVI in San Francisco which was free (included in the price, I'm sure we

        • by swb (14022)

          Well, there's obviously a calculus to this. If you don't have sufficient cell data, signal or high speed data then wifi would make a better choice.

          If I'm traveling for work I will at least try the hotel system even if it costs money. If it works reasonably well (speed, signal quality, reliability) and doesn't require constant reconnection I will end up using it. If it ends up being slow or unreliable I will switch to tethering.

          For personal travel, I might fool around with it if it's free but I often just

  • Expensive Hotels Really Do Have Faster Wi-Fi

    How about that shitty motel I visited a couple of years ago in a small town population 12K? Dirty, small, shitty, smelly, noisy (walls so thin I was actually considering joining in the nightly party next door where the couple went at it all the time).

    But you know what? They had REALLY FAST WiFi. 30/30! Way better than I had in Copenhagen with my poor 8/8.

    • by retchdog (1319261)

      (walls so thin I was actually considering joining in the nightly party next door where the couple went at it all the time)

      this is a little-known feature, actually. you just punch the wall hard enough and you have an instant glory hole. it cuts down on the uncomfortable introductions, and being semi-anonymous, makes rejection more tolerable.

      when you're done, you can find a sheaf of wadding in the nightstand, often marked with a cross. you just tear out the pages, crumple them up, and stuff the hole with them

      • actually. you just punch the wall hard enough and you have an instant glory hole.

        That sounds like a WIRED connection to me, we were discussing WiFi (wireless) connections here.

      • when you're done, you can find a sheaf of wadding in the nightstand, often marked with a cross. you just tear out the pages, crumple them up, and stuff the hole with them.

        I thought that was for rolling joints?

  • cleaner rooms better food more polite staff

    Quick, stop the presses, god things cost more than bad ones.

  • by Murphdog (1025219) on Thursday August 07, 2014 @02:16PM (#47624639)
    Being someone who used to directly support internet services for businesses, including hotels, I an assure you that most of the time, it's because the hotel does not spend the money to have a connection speed to support the number of occupants at the hotel. Most big chains will probably have a 50x5 connection for their guests to use, while some will continue to use a 10 or 15x2 connection for their guests. Not very many hospitality businesses use fiber, yet. In most if not all cases, the speed reverved for each user will be limited to anywhere from 256k to 2MB. I don't recall ever seeing anything faster than that.
  • by netsavior (627338) on Thursday August 07, 2014 @02:17PM (#47624645)
    flea-bag motels have no free amenities. Motel 6/hilton/whatever will give you wifi and hbo. Expensive hotels have no free amenities.
    The few hotels I have stayed in that were nicer than my socio-economic class had shitty wifi that was 20 bucks extra per night. The midrange motels all have shitty wifi that is free. In most cases, tethering to my 4g phone is the best option.
    • by rssrss (686344)

      There is an inverse correlation between the price of the hotel and the price of the wi-fi. But, even at expensive hotels with $15/day wi-fi, there are things you can do.

      At many of those hotels wi-fi in the lobby and restaurants is gratis, and they may be pleasant places to sit while you read your email. Also, it is worthwhile to butter up the desk clerks who maybe able to slip you a password. I have also found that most hotels never change their passwords. Sometimes I have paid once and used it several time

  • by mellon (7048) on Thursday August 07, 2014 @02:32PM (#47624787) Homepage

    I get widely differing performance at different hotels in the same chain, for some chains, and consistent performance for others. And of course, different performance in the early evening than in the early morning. So these numbers are basically garbage.

  • nice small directional antenna and small tripod + pocket router with antenna wire coming out running OpenWRT...

    I have my choice of faster wifi from my hotel window.... Starbucks is really fast after hours.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...for Internet access, hotels ALWAYS cheap out on the pipe, regardless of what we advise. I still know of many hotels that their only pipe is a pseudo-T1 line.

  • by sugar and acid (88555) on Thursday August 07, 2014 @05:24PM (#47626275)

    As a Common international business traveller,, I know very well the issues with hotel wifi.

    First of, there is the dodgy reception interference issue. What compounds this is as soon as the wifi is flaky in a hotel, everybody gets the 3/4g wifi hotspots out compounding the problem. My solution is a high power (600mw) usb wifi adapter and high gain antenna in my suitcase. Cuts through all the crap. This one was a boon in a hotel in Lawrence Kansas, and whenever I get stuck in THAT room with sucking wifi reception.

    Second is the throttling issue, where each device is throttle. Once I found In a nice hotel in Orange county had wifi hard throttle to 1mbps, I also found I could use the external USB adapter, the laptops internal adapter, and the rooms wired ethernet, and carefully created routing table, to get 3x 1 mbps streams....

    I've once had the whole wifi in a hilton hotel come down, after the main login server got a virus, (short hills NJ). On the other hand the best wifi I've ever had at a hotel was at a hilton group hotel (doubletree in chesterfield MO).

  • by reboot246 (623534) on Thursday August 07, 2014 @05:57PM (#47626469) Homepage
    I practically live on the road and I stay in some pretty cheap places. Most of the time the wifi is fairly slow, but sometimes I'm surprised by how fast it is.

    Right now I'm in a $43/night Scottish Inn in a small city in Tennessee and I'm getting over 14 Mbps downstream. Last month I stayed in a $45/night motel in Baldwin County Alabama and had close to 30 Mbps at times (averaged over 20). More than enough to read and post on slashdot.

    The very worst motels for internet are Motel 6 and Super 8. When will the motel owners realize you can't share a dial-up connection?!?

    A lot depends on the internet service available to the motel and how many people staying there are using it. Remember, a lot of motels, especially the lower priced ones, are owned by individuals, and their attitude towards technology determines how much importance they place on having fast internet for their customers. Some really don't care.

    Also, let me take this opportunity to say "Hello!" to all my Patel friends.
  • I'm the GM of a large, non-brand, hotel south of Miami. But guess what, by trade, I'm a network engineer (I burned out, and I like the hotel business). But I had a hand in designing our new WiFi network. It's free to guests, just requires a 'token'/password for the guests to access, that everyone gets when they check in. I have the routers configured to limit each device to 5Mb, and even though I only have 100Mb bandwidth to the gateway, guests are always commenting on how we have the fastest WiFi in an
    • by ruir (2709173)
      Install a giant screen with free beers to the guests in some large conference room...less complaints and the food they ask to go with it will more than pay the beers.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    A few years ago I found myself at a DC hotel, 5 star, payed by NASA. After arriving after 10 pm, I spent 10 pm to 12 trying to find a room with working wifi or ethernet !

    The Hotel staff helped me to find a room with a working wifi or ethernet !

    It was mind-boggling and interesting that at a 5-Star DC hotel (US Government Payed) in the late-hours and wee-hours I became a "tester" for their wifi and ethernet.

    We found out a lot of "things" with their network (In the same hotel, New York Governor [Eliot Sptizer]

  • by SteveWoz (152247) on Friday August 08, 2014 @12:35AM (#47628049) Homepage

    I travel a ton and stay in dozens of different hotels every year. Domestically, and in maybe 50% of the foreign cases, the high priced hotels had worse and slower internet up until a couple of years ago. For the last 2 years they have gotten better, on the average. Oh, I was in a 5-star Vegas resort last night that had horrible bandwidth. In the past, my joke was accurate that the difference between a Four Seasons (just an example) and a Super 8 is that at the Super 8 the internet worked and was free. The most important thing to me in a hotel is computer use. The fancy suites in major hotels are often set up for entertaining friends and DON'T even have a computer desk. I ask my wife to book me into Super 8's whenever possible.

  • At least I expensed that to my company.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    OpenSignal is unusable. They don't even have 0.1% of the real coverage.
    My city shows up having zero coverage for 4G and my history shows up as having 4G signal 68% of time.

    I submitted data for months and they never included it.

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