“The Cell Service Sucks in This Hotel” (Why Hotel GMs Should Care About Wireless Coverage)

“The cell service really sucks in here.” Seven words no hotel GM wants to hear – yet many hear it from guests and employees on a regular basis. Worse, many see this sentiment expressed in online reviews on sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Having good cellular service is a critical component of the overall guest experience at hotels, and with consumers expecting ubiquitous connectivity wherever they go, hotel GMs cannot afford to ignore this issue.

Often, hotel owners and managers attempt to “solve” poor cell service by upgrading their property’s WiFi networks. However, WiFi is not a replacement for cellular coverage. We often hear from hotels, “we have WiFi so our guests are covered.” While WiFi is a critical component of an overall wireless solution, it cannot take the place of solid cellular coverage. Customers still need to make voice calls, and expect the quality of their cellular network. Data and texting can occur over WiFi connections, but there are security and bandwidth issues to consider. Hotels often charge for WiFi, and many guests prefer to use their wireless carrier’s data connection, as 4G cellular networks can provide easier access and better speed than WiFi networks.

Some hotels put responsibility for this issue back in the hands of the wireless carriers to provide infrastructure upgrades to ensure more reliable coverage. I often hear from hotel CIOs that this is a “carrier-side” issue. However, waiting for the carrier(s) to make upgrades to your property is a bit shortsighted. The assumption that fixing poor cell service is the responsibility of the carriers is often shared by guest services and frontline employees. In this TripAdvisor review, the guest relations manager very politely tells the reviewer he is sorry the guest did not have good cell coverage and that he will “ensure this information is shared with the appropriate management to convey on to local cellular carriers.”

While this response is the right approach from a customer service perspective, passing responsibility for your wireless infrastructure back to the carrier is not always the right approach for solving cell coverage issues. It is no longer solely the responsibility of the wireless carrier to provide coverage inside your building. If the carrier has a tower or small cell deployment near your building that provides coverage, they have done their job by bringing the signal to your property. But even these solutions may have their drawbacks for connectivity and access during high capacity/peak data usage periods.

In some cases – typically for very large hotels or those in major event or convention cities – the wireless carriers may be willing to invest in an in-building wireless system to improve coverage at a hotel’s property, but this is not always feasible. The carriers have limited budgets and must prioritize infrastructure upgrades. Unless your property provides strategic value (e.g., your hotel is located in the next Super Bowl city or major convention location), it is unlikely the carriers will offer to pay for wireless infrastructure upgrades at your property.

The best approach for hotel owners and managers is to take charge of their property’s wireless infrastructure by installing a carrier-universal, neutral-host wireless solution (a solution that enhances coverage for everyone, regardless of carrier network). We work with many hotel owners and managers who originally avoided investigating a neutral-host wireless solution because they assumed it would come with a high price tag. This is not always the case. By partnering with a wireless infrastructure company, hotels can reap the benefits of an in-building wireless solution and get the most buy-in from the carriers, ultimately providing the most benefit for their guests.

Does your hotel property have cellular coverage issues? Would you like to improve cell coverage and increase guest satisfaction? Let us know and a Quantum Wireless representative will contact you to discuss your property’s wireless infrastructure.