How to Conduct a Hotel WiFi Site Survey

Paper and Pen Checklist for Hotel WiFi

February 15, 2017

Three things Qlicket looks at most closely during a hotel WiFi site survey:

1.  Quality of your Internet Connection


What is the speed coming into the property? What is the connection type (e.g., ADSL/DSL, coax/cable, fiber, satellite, etc.)? What is the contention ratio (i.e., ratio between download and upload speeds)? How reliable is that connection (i.e., how much fluctuation is there in the reported speeds)?

A good rule of thumb for most hotels when choosing a plan is to take 1.25mbps x # of rooms for your download speed. So, if you have an 80 room property, you should choose 80 x 1.25mbps = 100mbps download speed Internet plan. Upload speed typically isn’t as critical at a hotel, so accepting whatever the Internet Service Provides (ISP) provides is generally fine. If you are looking for a rule of thumb, then take 0.25mbps x # of rooms, so in this instance 80 x 0.25mbps = 20mbps upload speed. While fiber is nice, it is generally really expensive and isn’t the best value for money solution in most U.S. markets; coax/cable is typically a better value for money option for most one to three star hotels/motels/B&Bs.

2.  Signal Strength of the Access Points (APs)


We are entirely AP agnostic and have worked with nearly every major AP provider, including Ubiquiti, Open Mesh, Cisco / Meraki, Ruckus, Aruba, EnGenius, Zyxel and Luxul.

There are tradeoffs among all of them. For example, Cisco’s Meraki line offers some of the most advanced features we see in the market, especially with things like deep packet inspection (DPI) and layer 7 filtering. Some specialize in zero handoff or seamless roaming across APs. Others obsess about things like client isolation. But for most of our customer base, which primarily consists of one to three star hotels/motels/B&Bs, the Ubiquiti line is the best value for money.

With APs that are about $100 each, the Ubiquiti long range line of AC and N grade APs do the job in nearly every instance. The reason is that most hotels don’t have adequate signal strength and they often underestimate the number of APs they need; lack of signal strength in the guest rooms with the doors closed is the number one biggest issue that we see at most sites. The Ubiquiti line of long range APs can add anywhere from -5 dBm to -15 dBm of signal strength improvement, a significant figure in the world of wireless connections. 

Beyond just the signal strength, are all the APs named the same name and on non-conflicting channels? Are cordless phones, microwaves and other things present that may conflict with the 2.4 GHz channel? What would be the best way to arrange the APs as to minimize interference and packet loss?

3. Feature Set of the Local Network Gateway Controller


We call the gateway controller the “brains behind the network,” because it allows you to manage all of your APs and networked devices, hopefully from anywhere in the world.

Does the gateway controller include constantly updated software that provides the ability to design custom splash pages, choose authentication methods, set speed and data restrictions for each device, collect real-time customer feedback and do so much more? Are there proper Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificates in place to ensure encrypted logins? Is it possible to utilize virtual private networks (VPNs) on the network? Is the captive portal, where guests login, responsive and work with nearly any browser and operating system? And if a guest cannot login, does the captive portal make it easy to identify the support number, media access control (MAC) address and local IP address?

The X Factors — Wiring and Crimps


Beyond these three main aspects, proper wiring and crimps (Cat 5e or better on T568B standard) are important as well.

To create an amazing guest experience for something typically not visible to the human eye, it’s critical to keep all these aspects in mind. After all, WiFi is typically the #1 most requested amenity at a hotel!

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