Best and Worst Hotel Wi-Fi

HotelChatter publishes an annual report on hotels with the best and worst Wi-Fi. This is not a list based on the quality of the connection but on whether or not hotels charge for Wi-Fi with “best” meaning “free” and “worst” meaning expensive. I believe it’s time to move to a different measure of “best” and “worst” which includes not just price but the quality of the connection. Hotels should offer two tiers of service: a free one for those who simply check email and browse websites, and a paid one (with guaranteed high bandwidth) for those who stream music or video, and upload large files.

What’s tragic about HotelChatter’s list is that the same luxury hotels are still, after all these years, charging a lot of money for Wi-Fi (without high bandwidth guarantees) and I don’t get the sense that their Wi-Fi connections are as luxurious as their accommodations.

Another interesting set of data published in the report is how much it costs a hotel to install and maintain a Wi-Fi network for its guests, and how much money they make out of charging for Wi-Fi: for a typical 250-room New York City hotel, the installation cost is $125,000, annual maintenance cost is $7,500 and annual profit is $200,000. Yet there are hotels including some luxury brands that provide Wi-Fi to their guests as a complimentary service (like water and electricity). It’s just baked into the price of the room.

The worst Wi-Fi hotels are the Westin, W Hotels, Marriott flagship hotels, Hard Rock and Hilton Hotels (including Conrad, Waldorf Astoria, Embassy Suites and DoubleTree). Special mention goes out to hotels in Europe, many of which have never departed from the traditional practice of ripping off their guests with sky-high Wi-Fi charges. For example, the JW Marriott Grosvenor House in London charges 20 pounds per day. Some hotels even charge between 15 and 20 Euros per day per device.

I have been traveling extensively this year (US, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, India, Bhutan, Vietnam, the Philippines, South Korea, Israel, Germany) and I tend to stay in boutique hotels where Wi-Fi service is free of charge. If I have to stay in a chain hotel which charges for Wi-Fi, I’d rather sit in the lobby (where Wi-Fi is usually free) or go to a cafe. I don’t usually stream video or upload big files so my Wi-Fi needs are simple (checking email mostly) and I don’t use a lot of bandwidth. That is the reason why I resist having to pay for Wi-Fi.

One could argue that hotels today need to charge for Wi-Fi because so many people are using the hotel’s broadband network for iPads, iPhones and other laptops. We recently published an article entitled Why Hotel Wi-Fi is Being Crushed by iPads and What to Do About It which discusses the increasingly poor experience that guests have on hotel Wi-Fi networks and what hotels can do about it. Our suggestions:

1. Upgrade to 802.11n/g/b/a radios. Stop slowing down the networks by using old technology.

2. Rooms need to have both wireless and wired access. The hotels in Europe I stay in, boutique or chain often have both. With wired access you avoid the 802.11b problem or you can use your own travel router (I carry one all the time).

3. Hotel networks between public areas, conference rooms and guest rooms all need to have their own “elastic” or “expandable” pipes. Let’s face it. If the hotel is going to be full you don’t run out of water or bars of soap, towels or other essentials. Well bandwidth is one now.

4. Hotels need to invest in carrier neutral DAS systems. The offload of WiFi traffic by operators is going to put more strain on hotel WiFi and broadband. But guests also want to use their own mobile phones, not the hotel room phones.

5. Hotels need to take more control of their guest experience. Outsourcing your technology today to third parties is like turning your check in experience over to outsiders. Especially when your most frequent guests know the technology better than they do.

Read the full article:

Why hotel WiFi is being crushed by iPads and what to do about it

Bonus tips: Excellent hotels I’ve stayed in (with free Wi-Fi)

Ascott Raffles Hotel (Singapore)

Sofitel Legend Metropole (Hanoi)

Queenstown Park Hotel (Queenstown New Zealand)

TenFace Hotel (Bangkok)

Nakamanda Resort (Krabi, Thailand)

Mine Boutique Hotel (Buenos Aires)

Posada Borravino (Mendoza, Argentina)

Pestana Convento do Carmo (Salvador de Bahia, Brazil)

In other places I have rented an apartment with Wi-Fi (try Airbnb to find good apartments).


  1. All good points!

    Another point is that within the US where you can stream Netflix, and I suppose outside of US with other, less ubiquitous, providers or sources, hotels are losing revenue previously made through their internal “on-demand” systems to these services, so charging for wifi helps recoup some of those lost revenues.

  2. Esme Vos says:

    You cannot stream Netflix outside the US unless you use a proxy server that is based in the US. This is the same with the BBC’s iPlayer — you can use it only in the UK unless, of course, you hide your location via a proxy server.

  3. Esme, you left out total bandwidth for the physical connection from the facility; even though mentioned DAS for the offload issue (voice is narrowband, so how much is that?). But the data and tablet consumption can surely overwhelm the fixed connection to the facility. Michael