Calling All Hotels: Time to Improve Your Cellular Networks
Phones are no longer one-dimensional; beyond calling, users can text, stream live video and book travel-related amenities via various mobile apps.
This has changed how industries service the customer, including the travel and hospitality industries.
“The guests’ appetite for connectivity is probably higher now than it has ever been when you look at how the behavior has changed from a voice-type application to a data-type service—where (guests are) looking for streaming video and texting and all those capabilities. The demand is even greater than it was even a year or two ago,” said Jon Davis, vice president of business development and in-building solutions at ExteNet.
ExteNet Systems, a distributed network infrastructure company, enables wireless cellular service providers to accommodate the ever-increasing demands of mobile consumers. ExteNet works with major brands and companies throughout the hospitality space, particularly with full-service hotels in major markets, to expand their cellular capabilities. That includes MGM Resorts, Omni Hotels & Resorts, Westin Hotels & Resorts and the Trump Hotel Collection.
“When you look at how enterprises are making decisions, (including) hotels that have meeting rooms, it’s really becoming a requirement that they have this type of connectivity on the mobile side,” Davis added. “It’s important that (guests) have a good experience as it relates to connectivity.”
In 2013, a study by SmartBrief Media Services found that 99 percent of travelers set out on their journey with at least one mobile device, and 40 percent use three devices or more while traveling.
On top of that, a report by Intelity entitled “Keyless Room Entry & the Guest Experience” noted that 74 percent of travelers were interested in using mobile technology to automate the check-in process and bypass the reception desk.
A big problem hoteliers have is that the potential for disrupted mobile connectivity increases when you have a lot of guests and mobile devices inside your property. The more mobile devices, the greater the chance someone will complain about intermittent or slow service. This is where establishing a strong distributed network can help immensely.
“It really is about getting the signal closer to the user to give them an overall better connected experience,” Davis said.
Davis added that when hotels have problems with mobile connectivity due to multiple devices “that's all based on the amount of capacity that’s on the network.” A distributed network, he said, “helps solve a lot of those problems.”
Solving those problems not only figures to boost hotel review scores, but it also saves time for hotel general managers. Davis said guests used to call their cellular service providers when they had connectivity problems. Now, they are increasingly going straight to the general manager at the hotel or front desk agents. In turn, hotel staff members have less time to help guests with other issues.
Davis said that ExteNet tries to provide its services for free to hoteliers by working with various other service providers and stakeholders. This is more likely in urban environments, as isolated environments can be more costly, but the idea is to keep costs at a minimum for hoteliers.
ExteNet also regularly follows key events across the country, Davis said. For example, in 2013, the company provided a distributed network for the Westin Tampa Harbour Island Hotel for the Republican National Convention. ExteNet will also be working with local hoteliers when the RNC comes to Cleveland, when Pope Francis visits New York City and Philadelphia, and when the Super Bowl comes to Arizona, San Francisco, Houston and Minnesota.
Major events such as these are “critical” to hoteliers and help “drive up hospitality,” Davis said.
“The winners, in all of that, is the hospitality group,” he said. “In that type of setting, wireless service providers are really looking to improve service and provide more capacity.”
And as travelers continue to use multiple mobile devices, it’s safe to say hotels will need to continue focusing on providing for optimum cellular service.
“I don’t see anyone’s thirst for broadband (and connectivity) changing anytime in the near future,” Davis said.
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