why is hotel wifi so bad

Why is Hotel WiFi so Bad?

Staying at a night hotel can be a real treat. From plush bedding to fancy little soaps in the bathroom and not to forget the complimentary sodas in the mini-fridge, what can go wrong? 

All these things can go a long way towards making you feel like a superstar until you connect to the hotel WiFi, and then it’s so slow that it makes you feel like you’re living in the dialup era.

This begs the question, why is hotel WiFi barely functional even at 5-star hotels? The most common reason is volume: the sheer number of people connected to the hotel WiFi.

Unlike at home, where you might only have a few people connected to your home network at one point, hotels have to deal with dozens if not hundreds of connected devices at one point often at the same strength and speed as your home network. 

How silly and shortsighted.

Is WiFi a Less Priority for Hotels?

When you’re searching for a hotel online or in a brochure, you’ll come across all sorts of amenities such as the large size swimming pool, a spa, and activities for the kids and all kinds of other facilities. And perhaps in small font on the bottom of the page, you’ll see mention of a WiFi network.

This is often the case with WiFi networks that aren’t openly displayed throughout the hotel. Typically, hotels cram their equipment into closets, maintenance areas, and even false ceilings so things don’t look messy and that the WiFi network doesn’t mess the aesthetics of the place.

But there’s a caveat to this.

Trying to hide the WiFi device behind a bunch of obstacles ends up reducing the WiFi signal strength, WiFi range, and, therefore, its speed. As it turns out, numerous hotels use older equipment as the latest WiFi infrastructure is not their top priority. A wall is an interference. A door is an interference. Interference means dropped and unreliable connections.

Typically, ISPs sign contracts with hotels to provide them with the equipment and services for a certain period. This period could be up to many years, which leads to an older standard of equipment for the hotel after a certain time, and since replacing them is costly, hotels tend to leave the network as it is, not investing in any upgrades that can improve the guest’s experience.

If you’re experiencing sluggish internet speeds, chances are that the hotel you’re staying in is using a piece of older equipment, perhaps the 2.4 GHz band, which is compatible with almost all WiFi devices but doesn’t deal well with congestion when compared with a 5 GHz WiFi network.

It’s also possible that the hotel is using 802.11n routers which don’t perform as well as newer standards such as 802.11ac. Let’s put it this way: the difference is 2340 Mb/sec as opposed to 600 Mb/sec.

When you combine all of these factors and the fact that the hotel network is being split between hundreds of guests, you end up being stuck in a severe bottleneck. 

Which begs the question: Shouldn’t hotels improve their internet network to attract and possibly satisfy existing people staying at the hotel?

Theoretically, yes.

Unfortunately, only a few hotels truly place emphasis on upgrading and improving their WiFi speeds, which means the entire hospitality industry has no motivation to follow suit. Eventually, all hotels end up needing to upgrade their WiFi infrastructure, but each hotel is on its own timetable, which means it’s uncertain when this is going to happen.

How to Fix a Slow Internet Connection

Here’s what you can do in the meantime if you’re stuck in a place with slow WiFi:

For a frequent traveler

If you’re a frequent traveler who ends up spending multiple nights at hotels locally or internationally, you might want to invest in a good WiFi router. While it may be seen as old-school for those modern laptops that clearly don’t have an Ethernet port, many hotels still offer wired internet access via Ethernet.

Plug your router into the power socket, the Ethernet cable in your router, and you have your very own WiFi network. Make sure you have it secured with a WPA2 password. For additional online security, you could hide your SSID and configure a VPN on your router.

Clearly, this lets you bypass WiFi and do your own thing. As long as the wired connection is reliable, your newly created wireless network will likely be better than the WiFi offered by the hotel!

Avoid hotels with poor WiFi

When choosing a hotel to book at, make sure to research WiFi speeds offered by the hotels in your target destination. Opt for hotels that offer the highest internet speed and always read reviews of the hotel in general and their WiFi network in particular.

Don’t rush to book the first hotel with a ‘high-speed internet connection’ only to check in and discover that the hotel isn’t worth the money. Also, your experience would be completely tarnished if you discover bedbugs. A retreat could end up getting you an allergic reaction.

Ather Owais Ather Owais is a tech and cybersecurity enthusiast. He is a strong advocate for online privacy and security, following technological trends and their impact on today's digital era.

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