Welcome to WiFi University, where you can learn about WiFi and other items that hoteliers need to understand to provide a great guest experience.
You won’t need an advanced degree in engineering – we’ll lay out concepts in terms you can understand, with examples to make these ideas easier to grasp.
We’ll be adding content on an ongoing basis, but if you have an idea for WiFi University, please let us know!
How can you make your guests happier with fast, reliable Wi-Fi? An Introduction to Hospitality WiFi
Your guest network may need more access points…but why? This brief educational video explains why hotels now need more Wi-Fi access points than they used to.
What’s the difference between 2.4GHz and 5GHz?
What is WiFi 6, and why does my hotel need it?
What does my property need to do to meet legal requirements for phone systems? (Note: This is a summary only and is not intended to provide legal guidance.)
Statement regarding the Log4j vulnerability You may already have heard the news regarding the recently discovered Java Log4j vulnerability (aka Log4Shell). The initial wave of attack made its way quickly to computers around the world, attempting to identify vulnerable systems that were later instructed to download malicious code via a web request. See https://www.zdnet.com/article/security-warning-new-zero-day-in-the-log4j-java-library-is-already-being-exploited/ Our developer and security team at Hospitality WiFi continues to be proactive in ensuring that our customers will not be exposed to these kinds of vulnerabilities through our solutions. In this specific case, we have carefully reviewed our solutions and determined that no HWF-engineered solution leverages Java specifically via the Log4j library. Thus, we believe that our solutions are currently safe from this specific vulnerability, but we will continue to review and monitor our systems. The implications of this exploit may be startling. But you can take targeted action to protect your hotel (and users) moving forward. Here are the 8 steps that we recommend to get your cybersecurity posture aligned: • Start by protecting your web applications from risk and vulnerability. • Continually monitor network traffic flow for malicious activity or policy violations. • Speed up incident response time for better customer trust. • Look closer at internal use of resources — ensure that only the appropriate users have access. • Don’t let your guard down. Regularly assess possible software vulnerabilities. • Tap into reports and trending data to demonstrate your security and compliance. • If a breach occurs, work with experts to rehabilitate your brand quickly. • Stay proactive — consider automation to prevent breaches before they occur. If you have any questions on how to implement and take action on any of these steps, please contact us and we will be more than happy to help you get secure.
What is Hotspot 2.0? Currently, when your guests enter your hotel and attempt to use your hotel WiFi, they need to log in manually to your guest network. However, the typical login procedure has a number of shortcomings: • Guests need to choose the correct network and log in every time. • It’s not always clear which networks are legitimate and which are phishing networks. • Many public WiFi networks are open and don’t use encryption. Devices can often “see” one another; therefore, their information is not secure from one another. A relatively new technology called Hotspot 2.0 (also sometimes called HS2, Passpoint, or Next-Gen Hotspot) is intended to lessen or eliminate these shortcomings. The process of joining a Hotspot 2.0-enabled network is simple: • Even before entering your hotel, the guest’s device can retrieve the configuration profile that is needed to connect to your guest WiFi network. For example, a button within the brand loyalty app can offer to handle the installation of the necessary profile when the guest makes their reservation; the guest simply needs to click and confirm. Alternatively, the guest can scan a barcode at check-in to download the necessary certificates. • Once the profile is installed on the guest’s device, the device will automatically connect to the WiFi; no additional sign-in is needed. The profile is generally per-brand, meaning the guest’s device can now connect at any Hotspot 2.0-enabled hotel of that brand. • As the guest moves around your property, their device is automatically connected to the best available hotspot. Benefits of Hotspot 2.0 include: • Automatic connections make it easier for your guests to use the network, resulting in fewer complaints and happier guests. • Guests don’t need to do anything to use Hotspot 2.0 once the certificates are installed on their device. Most modern mobile devices support Hotspot 2.0, including smartphones, tablets, and laptops. • Much like with cellular “roaming,” the guest experience remains consistent with needing to reconnect or sign in. • There is no need to guess about the authenticity or safety of a network. The mobile device knows which networks are authentic Hotspot 2.0 partner networks with the right security credentials and certificates. • The connection is a 1:1 connection with enterprise-grade encryption, ensuring that rogue devices cannot intercept communications. Public networks such as those in airports and some hotels and restaurants are already starting to adopt Hotspot 2.0, and many large cable and cellular providers already offer support for this technology or are rolling it out. Hospitality WiFi is currently working on incorporating these capabilities into our access points.
Creating a great guest experience with casting Whether they’re traveling for business or pleasure, hotel guests are looking for more than just the basics –they’re seeking a guest experience that’s more like what they have at home. An important aspect of this is in-room entertainment, and specifically the ability to cast video content. Surveys show that well over three-quarters of US households now subscribe to at least one streaming video on-demand (SVOD) service (more than subscribe to traditional TV services!), and around 50% subscribe to three or more services. As guests continue to travel with more personal electronic devices, they increasingly express a desire to cast their own choice of SVOD content to their guest room TV, with two-thirds saying that casting is a desirable feature and half noting that it might impact their future booking decisions. Yet only about a quarter of hoteliers now say they can offer that option to guests. Clearly, casting is becoming more than just a “nice-to-have” feature, and it can help set your hotel apart from your competitors – so what do you need to know to get ready? First, surveys also show that guests greatly prefer the option to cast content from their own devices instead of logging into an app on the guest room TV. Guests find it much easier to log in on their own devices, and they’re much more wary of potential security risks when logging in via TV apps. So it’s preferable to offer the option for guests to connect their own devices to the TV. One of the best ways to do that is for hotels to connect casting devices to their guest room TVs. There are several things to look for when evaluating casting solutions: • It is important to select an industry-standard solution. For example, Google and Apple casting devices are well-known, widely implemented, and include security and lifecycle management (so that, for example, the device will maintain updated versions of SVOD services as they are released). • The solution should be able to support different platforms and be ready for a wide variety of consumer BYOD content, since you won’t know what devices your guests will bring with them nor what apps they’ll be using. • For the greatest cost-effectiveness, the solution should be TV-agnostic so you can continue to use the guest room TVs you already have. • Avoid solutions that require complex and/or insecure network designs to function, as well as solutions that don’t offer lifecycle management. In addition to choosing the right type of casting solution for your guest rooms, there are a couple of aspects you’ll need to prepare within your hotel: • For an experience that will delight guests, your guest network needs to be able to handle the increased traffic from casting. SVOD apps can be bandwidth-heavy; if your incoming bandwidth, your HSIA, or your gateway can’t accommodate that increased traffic, guests will be frustrated and annoyed instead of delighted, leading to increased complaints and lower ratings. • As noted earlier, a good casting solution should be TV-agnostic, but you’ll still need to be sure your TVs can work with the casting hardware – you’ll generally need an open HDMI input and (preferably) a powered USB port. • You may want to consider the physical security of the casting device. There are a number of anti-theft options available for casting hardware. Finally, you’ll need to think about how your guests will connect to the in-room casting device. For a great guest experience, you need to make it easy for guests to connect and cast: • For security, you’ll need to ensure that guests can cast only to the TV in their own room, and that all devices are disconnected when a guest checks out. Thus, authentication is needed. • It is best practice to offer multiple authentication methods to pair guest devices with their in-room TV(s) and to provide clear instructions to guests of how to connect and cast using these methods. On-screen instructions can provide an easy way to help guests connect. • Where available, PMS integration can enable frictionless authorization; guests can simply connect to the hotel WiFi using their last name and room number, and they will automatically be authenticated to the casting device(s) in their own guest room. The bottom line is that, with the right solution and a little bit of preparation, offering the ability to cast to guest room TVs can be a good way to set your hotel apart from the rest with a great guest experience. With our proven solutions and years of experience in HSIA for hotels, Hospitality WiFi can help you make sure your hotel is ready – just give us a call!
“Guests usually love our WiFi- so why are my scores suddenly going down?”
Why do I need to upgrade my gateway when I upgrade my bandwidth? As your guests bring more and more devices with them, they come to expect more available bandwidth for demanding apps such as streaming and gaming. To meet that expectation, a number of flags are now requiring that properties add bandwidth from their ISP, and many independents are adding bandwidth as well. If you’ve already upgraded your ISP bandwidth, that’s great – but it comes with a caveat: You may need to upgrade your gateway to use all of that capacity and speed. Older-generation gateways may not be able to take advantage of higher available bandwidth. Even when the rest of your network is configured just right, the wrong gateway can keep you from seeing optimal performance. It’s like a kink in the hose that needs to be fixed so that WiFi traffic can flow. It’s important to have the right gateway for your available bandwidth, and to let us know when you upgrade your bandwidth so that we can help you take advantage of the extra capacity and remove bottlenecks from your network. Newer, more cost-effective gateways are now available to offer better performance – instead of a kinked hose, you’ll have a firehose! For very small properties with no more than 50Mbps of bandwidth, an older gateway may perform acceptably well. But if you’ve got a medium-to-large property with up to 500Mbps or even more bandwidth and you haven’t upgraded your gateway in a while, give us a call to find out your options for taking advantage of your available speed and capacity. Your network’s performance will likely improve, and your guests will be happier for it!
Do I really need a wireless controller for my network? Many of our hoteliers own properties that are affiliated with large chains such as Best Western, IHG, and Choice Hotels. As you well know, some of these brands have started to update their Wi-Fi requirements for their hotels. One important aspect that is featured in some brands’ new requirements is the need for all access points to connect to a wireless controller – but we’ve found that many hoteliers don’t yet understand why controllers are important and beneficial. A wireless controller makes it easier to manage your network. Briefly, adding a controller to your Wi-Fi network will help with a number of technical aspects, such as channelization, roaming, band steering, and interference mitigation. A wireless controller with automatic channel selection enabled will help minimize radio interference between access points (APs). The controller will automatically manage the network of APs, adjusting transmit power levels and radio channel assignments to prevent adjacent APs from interfering. A wireless controller can help keep your guests happy by balancing the use of your access points. Too many devices connecting to a single access point can make for a frustrating experience for guests. A controller can help with load balancing, automatically shifting devices from one AP to another if too many devices are trying to use a single AP. A wireless controller makes network updates simpler. A controller enables seamless updates to your system and provides network, security, RF, and location management across all of your APs. Configuration changes can easily be applied to multiple APs or to the entire system simultaneously, easing the process of updating your system. A wireless controller can help maintain continuous wireless access for guests. We all know that APs can sometimes “hiccup” or fail entirely without warning; when that happens, a wireless controller enables redundant coverage by automatically switching users to another AP for seamless operation. These are just a few of the key benefits of using a wireless controller for your network, and there are many more. If you need to implement a wireless controller for your guest network, either to meet new brand requirements or just to improve the performance of your network, give us a call – we’d be happy to help!
What causes WiFi interference (and what can be done about it)? Wi-Fi interference is any signal outside of the configured Wi-Fi network that impairs normal operation of the Wi-Fi network. Typically, network operators will detect slower speeds, higher latency, frequent disconnects and reconnects, and sometimes a complete inability to connect to a Wi-Fi signal. The most common source of Wi-Fi interference is other Wi-Fi signals outside of the network operator’s control. This can happen when a signal is using the same channel. Co-channel interference may also result when access points are placed too close together and are configured with too high of an output power. In this situation, the configured Wi-Fi network can actually interfere with itself. The first and easiest place to look for Wi-Fi interference sources is other Wi-Fi signals. There are free tools available on the Internet that will allow a typical laptop or smart phone to be able to view Wi-Fi networks and their associated signal strengths. Other sources of potential interference cannot be detected using 802.11 Wi-Fi tools, including microwave ovens, 2.4 GHz or 5GHz cordless phones, wireless security cameras, cordless phone headsets, Bluetooth devices, security system motion detectors, defective florescent light fixtures, and personal “Mi-Fi” hotspots. Such devices will typically have a label (often on the bottom or in the battery compartment) indicating the frequency used. If that is not available, a look through the manual or a search on the Internet can be used to find what frequency is used. A network operator will want to avoid devices that use the 2.4 or 5 GHz frequencies if at all possible. There are also tools available from 3rd-party vendors that will display all transmissions on the 2.4 and 5GHz frequency bands. These tools are useful to detect items such as appliances or defective florescent light fixtures that may cause interference problems. If interference is caused by other Wi-Fi equipment, the quickest way to mitigate interference is to use auto-channel. Wi-Fi access points that use auto-channel periodically scan the Wi-Fi spectrum and select the clearest channel based on what other Wi-Fi signals are visible. Another good way to reduce interference is for the network operator to purchase and use cordless phones and/or headsets that do NOT use the 2.4 or 5GHz frequencies. If you suspect that your property has Wi-Fi interference issues, Hospitality Wi-Fi can perform remote diagnostics to detect any outside channel interference and change the channels used by your Wi-Fi to avoid the outside channel interference. If there is still an issue, it may be due to another non Wi-Fi device on-property. If this is the case, we can then schedule an on-site visit with a spectrum analyzer to find any other sources of potential interference.