When I saw the headline of the New York Times’ article, “What do travelers really want? Free hotel Wi-Fi,” I uttered the scatological equivalent of, “Well, duh!” But the article missed an important facet of what travelers – especially business travelers – both want and need: robust Internet connectivity.
The July 7 article made a number of points I have raised on TheTravelPro previously, including the impression that the nicer the hotel, the more expensive the Wi-Fi connection offered, although that is beginning to change.
What the article failed to mention was the speed of hotel Internet connections and how, like the price, it varies widely. Over the last few years, I have experienced Internet connectivity range from a painfully slow 0.75 Mbps at the vaunted Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego to more than 40 Mbps at the H15 Boutique Hotel in Warsaw and the Lodge at Suncadia in Cle Elum, Washington. In order to obtain a consistent basis for comparison, all speeds were all measured using Speakeasy.net/SpeedTest.
Higher connection speeds are great for playing games, streaming video or FaceTiming with the family back home but are vital when traveling on business and sending large files and presentations to other colleagues for their input or back to the home office for final approval.
Fortunately, services have popped up that allow travelers to check the Internet speed at the hotel where they will be staying, and to check the speed once they have arrived and report it so that others can track it. One such web site, www.HotelWiFiTest.com, also compiles the results and issues periodic reports on which hotels generally have the best Wi-Fi.
According to that company’s January report, 85 percent of the hotels reported in the U.S. offered free Wi-Fi, but only 35 percent of those Wi-Fi signals met the company’s quality standards of download speeds of at least 3 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 500 kbps. For comparison, 75 percent of European hotels offered free Wi-Fi with 46 percent of hotel Wi-Fi meeting the quality standards. In Asia, fewer hotels offered free Wi-Fi at 46 percent, but 50 percent of the hotels met HotelWiFiTest’s quality standards.
In addition, there are options available that can help travelers get around the lofty price tags and spotty service, including mobile hot spots that use cellular connections to create personal Wi-Fi hot spots. “Mi-Fi” units, as they are sometimes called, are available to rent, such as the one I used during my March trip to Poland, and for purchase, such as the Karma Go hot spot detailed here.
Whether you choose to pay for the Internet connection provided by your hotel, find the nearest coffee shop that provides free Wi-Fi and use it for the price of a cuppa Joe or carry your own personal hot spot, there are numerous options. It’s simply a matter of choosing the one that makes the most sense for the way you travel and the way you use the Internet when you’re on the road.
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