How Work Travellers Use The Internet In Hotels

If you're travelling for work, then a decent Internet link is likely to be high on your list of priorities. But just what do travellers use that connection for? The answer turns out to be: not email.

Picture by superciliousness

Free hotel Internet is gradually becoming more common, but it's still often the case that hotels want to charge $20 or more a day for the privilege of getting hooked up. One way of avoiding that expense is to use a 3G broadband connection instead, which is generally cheaper if you're going to be using a hotel more than once or twice a month, and has the advantage of also working in other locations.

With that said, a cabled in-room connection will often give you a better-quality link, and business travellers are more likely to take a "What do I care? It's all expenses anyway" view of the situation. Communications provider iBAHN, which runs the Internet access systems in 3,000 hotels around the world, tracks how those connections get used, and the figures for Australian customers — revealed last week by CEO David Garrison at the recent Hotel Operations Technology Conference conference in Melbourne - offer an interesting insight into our current online habits.

iBAHN's statistics suggest that standard web browsing is by far the most common activity, followed by streaming media, peer-to-peer file sharing, VPN connectivity, VOIP services, and email connections. According to Garrison, a year ago, peer-to-peer was more common, but has seen a marked reduction in use, perhaps reflecting the growth in catch-up TV services.

From a business user point of view, the surprising elements in this list are the relatively low ranking for VPN connections (often mandated by larger companies for connecting to corporate resources) and email-specific connections. Both might be partially explained by the use of mobile devices for many business purposes, eliminating heavy use of the PC connection. The lower ranking for email might also reflect a shift to web-based services such as Gmail.

Garrison anticipates that hotels will eventually offer a two-tiered model: free basic HTTP Wi-Fi access for visitors, with a supplementary paid service that offers guaranteed higher speeds and access to additional services, such as secure connections, video content or higher upload speeds. iBAHN's own surveys of Australian customers suggest that while 80% would like a free hotel service, 30% would pay for the ability to get higher bandwidth to watch online video, and a similar percentage would pay to be able to upload their own content more efficiently.

Where do you stand on paying for hotel connectivity? What services are most important to you when you are connecting on the road? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman figures that at least if you pay for hotel Wi-Fi, you can complain when it doesn't work. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.


Comments

    How internet is charged should also be included in the stats as well. For example, some hotels charge by the hour, by the day (or by 24 hours) and some even have 7 day packages. Youth hostels will go with a pay as you go scheme, which charge for shorter chunks of time, but are often more value for money. How much access you need is going to determine which package you choose.

    For example, a hotel charges $5 per hour (for the full sixty minutes), or $20 a day. If you only want to check your mail, either option are too expensive, and may dissuade you from using hotel internet. Even if you used it for some after hours entertainment (via web surfing or online video) $10 might be a bit steep per night- and you aren't in your hotel room long enough to warrant 24 hours' access.

    If you were at a Youth Hostel, you only buy an hour's worth, but that hour's worth can last you the duration of your stay- which is fine for checking Facebook, posting a few e-mails, etc. But, given the charging system (eg., $1.50 per 15 minutes), any longer sessions could also end up being as expensive as a hotel.

    PS. I don't think I have encounted any form of free Internet, wireless or wired, in all the hotels I've been in in Australia.

    My feeling is that any room costing more than $100/night should be offering free internet. It wouldn't hurt most if they attempted to blocked P2P traffic to help conserve bandwidth.

    Most of our employees use their mobile as modems, but I feel the internet should be seen as an everyday item now like towels etc. It isn't 1999 anymore. The markup on the $20 charge must be 10 times the cost (even taking into account the infrastructure and management costs).

    --
    Paul.

    E-mail is probably low because most corporate e-mail would be over secure connections anyway (ie SSL or VPN), so it would appear under whatever category they're placing those. The only people who wouldn't be using a encrypted connection would be those connecting via SMTP/IMAP/POP3 to their ISP or E-mail provider, which would fall to either small businesses or personal users.

    "iBAHN’s own surveys of Australian customers suggest that while 80% would like a free hotel service, 30% would pay for the ability to get higher bandwidth to watch online video"

    Wtf?

    why the hell would people go to a hotel to watch online video anyway.

    it's a joke to be paying for internet these days. especially when you're paying $300 bucks a night for a lumpy bed at sofitel melbourne.

    @Cameron
    "E-mail is probably low because most corporate e-mail would be over secure connections anyway"

    Or Lotus Notes email, which is often over port 1352. Which hotels block mostly, and that sucks.
    (http://bit.ly/5uQWQy)

    Can you list the hotels that do offer free connections? I have only ever encountered one in Australia, even though it is commonplace overseas. I've had free broadband in countries where it wasn't safe to drink the water in the hotel room.

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