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Best WiFi Hotels 2006

March 27, 2006 at 8:41 AM | by | Comments (11)

A HotelChatter Exclusive

It's been more than a year since our last investigation of hotels with the Best and Worst WiFi concoctions. What has changed since then is that most hotels have now jumped on the WiFi bandwagon, so most hotels have *some* sort of WiFi solution. The question is what is that solution, and is it any good?

Hotels have finally realized that WiFi is a must-have, something that tops the wish list of many potential guests. But the rush to quickly set-up hotel WiFi networks, coupled with the fact that wireless fidelity is still a fairly new technology, means that consistent wireless internet access, pricing, and service, is not a given across hotel brands, small hotel groups or even from the lobby to your room.

What's more is that while charging hotel guests for WiFi certainly gives a hotel a bad rep, having "Free WiFi" plastered on your website and uttered by your reservation agents, no longer makes a hotel stand out from the pack.

This year, our Hotel WiFi report is all about how well a hotel's WiFi network works, how the hotels service and support that network, and how conducive these hotels are to what we will call a "WiFi Friendly" environment. That's right, in 06 hotels have to have a certain wireless je ne sais quoi to make this list.

All that said, hotel wireless is still an extremely nebulous experience from hotel to hotel, so please send us tips and leave comments below letting us know how your hotel WiFi experience was.

Without further aideu, we present or Best WiFi Hotels for 2006. Our Worst WiFi Hotels for 2006 will be published tomorrow.

2006 Best WiFi hotels list post jump.

·Kimpton Hotels: Kimpton once again tops the list as the undisputed hotel WiFi kings. The brand improved their now legendary free WiFi service in the last couple of years, by extending their fast, reliable WiFi network to your upstairs room, at many hotels. Yup, at most Kimpton hotels you *can* actually sack out with your computer on the bed wireless and happy. This scenario is oft-advertised by other hotel chains, but hardly ever a reality. Kimpton doesn't count on their lobby WiFi network to reach the top floors of their buildings, instead, at the hotels we visited, Kimpton actually had two separate WiFi networks--one for the lobby and the other for the guest rooms. Both networks are easily accessible by clicking on a standard terms and conditions. Furthermore, during our Kimpton visits, friendly staffers went out of their way to ask us if we were getting a good reliable WiFi signal in both the lobby and our room, and guess what? We were. Kimpton Hotels tend to appeal to business travelers, hip leisure travelers, and globe-trotting bloggers.

·Omni Hotels: The grandaddy of free hotel lobby WiFi is an old favorite of sales execs and travelling politicos all over. Why? We spoke with some folks at Omni who actually encouraged people to utilize their free WiFi lobbies for business meetings. This means guests and non-guests alike can utilize the simple, quick, reliable free lobby WiFi to do everything from checking email to tapping in to online applications. Just click on the hotel's internet Terms & Conditions and off you go. While there is plenty of room to stretch out and plug in at most Omni lobbies, don't expect WiFi up in your room. Upstairs you will have to settle for free tethered ethernet access.

·André Balazs properties: André Balazs properties are a group of smaller boutique hotels located only in New York, LA, and Miami, however these guys get how to offer hotel WiFi. At the Standard properties & LA's Chateau Marmont, which are mid-end scenester hotels occupied by ad execs and film folks, AB offers free "click & go" WiFi in the lobby and the pool areas. Meaning you click on the RoomLinx agreement and you are off and running. However, at the more exclusive and upscale Mercer hotel in SoHo the free WiFi is available in your rooms and you will need a user name and password to utilize it. The WiFi credentials are given to guests by staffers. Meanwhile, uptown in Times Square, at the lower end "boutique hostel" Hotel QT, the free WiFi is also confined to guest rooms. Why? Well, the QT lobby is a tiny space mostly occupied by a bar and pool, and is definitely not the kind of place you want to hang out checking your email, thus the "guest room only" free WiFi seems to make sense to us here. Maybe it was the thin Art Deco walls, but we had a great experience with hotel WiFi at the Raleigh in South Beach. The signal was strong in the lobby, in our room, and even out by the pool. You have to admit, nothing is more decadent geekier than working on a laptop, in a cabana, poolside at South Beach. Bottom line, AB has free Wifi with good service, good reliability, and the properties seem to have a decent handle on what WiFi application makes sense for what properties--fairly advanced thinking here.

·Holiday Inn Express:/Marriott Residence Inn. The budget traveller favorite with great hotel WiFi was our toughest call. Believe it or not this category is full of hotel chains and brands that attempt to bring you free WiFi. However, these two stood out for the following reasons:

Holiday Inn Express: For the most part, these guys seem to choose Nomadix as their WiFi provider, which is a good thing. Kimpton appears to use this same provider, which is a sensible choice for network reliability, etc. At the Holiday Inn Express in Los Angeles, all that was required was an agreement to the hotel's terms and conditions and we were off. So if you don't mind staying at the Holiday Inn instead of some place more glamorous your money is well spent here. Additionally, the Holiday Inn Express in Europe is rumored to have free WiFi at the London-Victoria HI Express and the Frankfurt Germany HI Express. It can be excruciatingly painful to find reliable free hotel WiFi on the continent, so if Holiday Inn can get a jump on that market they might be on to something.

Marriott Residence Inn: Ok, ok, we didn't find a Marriott Residence Inn that would bring you a wireless bridge if your in-room signal was fading like the terms & conditions suggested. However, the signal was so strong in the rooms we tested you hardly needed a bridge. Most Residence Inns also come with free WiFi in the lobby, and these guys really cater to business travelers and guests staying for the long haul. We consistently ran into other business folks using the plug and play "WiFi desks" along the window of some Residence Inns, and at one location we found a group of folks pounding away on the reliable WiFi network at 3 AM, while snacking on the continental breakfast. The kicker? We aren't even sure these folks were hotel guests.

· Klein properties: Sunset Tower in Los Angeles  and City Club in New York. Now, we know that hotelier Jeff Klein only has these two properties under his belt which makes it easier to have a standardized WiFi model. But we think these hotels are definitely on to something with the way they do hotel WiFi. The Sunset Tower is basically like working from home. Network shows up in your available list, click it and you are on. No slow, clunky agreement pages to deal with, and no superfluous WiFi provider home pages to navigate around. It is as easy as stealing WiFi from your neighbor (we kid, we kid.) Both hotels offer in-room free Wifi. The City Club requires a password but did not discriminate against our non-guest testers. Klein's hotels target the bicoastal jetsetting crowd who need to stay connected. If you are not among the NY-LA crowd, you can't tap into Klein's excellent hotel WiFi, but we are hoping he expands, or at the very least, other hotel GM's mirror the Klein model at their hotels.

Promising Developments:
Joie de Vivre Hotels: JDV Hotels are a group of smaller boutique hotels located only in California. Their two newest hotels, Hotel Vitale in San Francisco and Hotel Angeleno in Los Angeles come with free, reliable WiFi in both the lobby and the guest rooms. However, keep in mind that this company's legacy properties are still hit or miss, as far as WiFi goes, and some of them even charge guests for wireless access.

Sheraton: Sheraton is currently teaming up with Yahoo! on a wireless access pilot program. The program, currently running in San Diego and Boston, allows guest and nonguests to use lobby WiFi by signing up for a "wireless badge" of sorts. Yeah, it feels a lot like going to a conference or something just to get your hands on a little free WiFi, but the program has promise.

Hilton: What is up with Hilton? At one Hilton you can be told to pay $9.99 for WiFi in your room or in the lobby, and at the next Hilton you can be flying around barrier-free WiFi as good as your home or office network seconds after turning on your computer. We sure hope the Hilton hotels move to the latter model en masse ASAP.

2006 Report Details

Related Stories:
· 2006 Best WiFi Screen Shots [HotelChatter]
· Best WiFi Hotels 2004 [HotelChatter]

Comments (11)

Post a Comment

Clarification on Kimpton's Provider

It is exciting to see Kimpton at the top of the list again. They are a great hotel group and deserve the recognition. The last few years the IT team as been committed to ensuring high-caliber networks to achieve great guest satisfaction.

It is important to note, though, that Nomadix is not a service provider. They are a gateway manufacturer that builds a device that goes onsite at the hotel property. Eleven Wireless is the service provider for Kimpton and also provides the software to power the portal and guest authentication. Eleven is primarily a software provider for broadband networks (and many of the hotel brands in this list use Eleven's software). However, Eleven has also managed Kimpton's networks for over three years.

Eric W. Sullender
Product Manager
Eleven Wireless Inc.


WiFi Security

I'm an International business traveler and concerned about security.  I'm gone a month at a time and must pay bills online; however, I'm uncomfortable using unsecured WiFi.  I currently only pay bills using the hotel's LAN and get upset when a hotel only offers unsecured WiFi without LAN as an alternative.  Should I be concerned?

Re: Best WiFi Hotels 2006

I appreciate this article. I believe Internet access should be complimentary, but understand hotels needing to control cost. The next question in Internet access is how much bandwidth should be free. With consumers carrying sling box devices, that sucks up major bandwidth leaving a smaller pipe for other users. I am anxious to see any research you do on that. You will see a proliferaiton of new business models in the near future about these bandwidth controls. Also, another popular topic are hotel business centers and lobbyPC's. Free or pay to use?

Re: Best WiFi Hotels 2006

Another question is what should be included.  
I had to sign up with http://smtp.com in order
to get outbound email working correctly
at several hotels after already paying for
access.

Internet in Hotels

Awesome to see the use of the internet was key, all the way back in 2006. I run an online takeaway website , and we get loads of orders from hotels now, a lot of traffic, every hotel where there is no restaurants, can offer to have takeaway delivered!

Sorry

Actually, wrote it wrong, its e-resistible

Hawai

A few years ago, I've stood in a lot of hotels on the beach in Hawaii and you don't want to know how many problems I had with WI-FI connections. Especially that I had to work from my laptop. This year I went again in the same places and I was afraid not to live the same experience. Luckily I had a pleasant surprise. Something changed in a good manner. The connection was awesome.  

Yes

You're right. I didn't went in Hawaii in the past years, but this year, the internet connections made me a good impression.If you like a place, a hotel, a restaurant, just rate it. This way, people could find more about interesting places.

Nomadix Rocks!

Stayed on a Holiday Inn Express a few years ago while on business in the States. Around that time, 300-400KBps was already a good thing. When I fired up my wifi while waiting for my room to be ready (I personally requested one on the third floor),  I was surprised that I got a 1.2 Gbps. I checked the speed test three times just to make sure. The Nomadix network was really delivering on its promises. When I visited smtp2go.net, my emails loaded fast including the huge presentation attachment that I was planning to use for the meeting the next day. As far as hotel wifis go, any hotel that uses Nomadix will definitely have a great wifi network.

Guest Rooms

Choosing the correct wireless net for your guest rooms is very vital for your business if you're a hotel owner. If taken gently, this primary hotel amenity may seriously be a supply of frequent complaints from your guests regarding the performance of your Wi-Fi. Servicing faulty wireless access points for hotel rooms will place an excessive amount of stress on your resources. it's simply not definitely worth the headaches must you not invest the time to pick the most effective wireless HSIA for your hospitality operation. <a href="http://www.wildplanettours.com/india">India Tour</a>

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