Industry Update
Opinion Article23 December 2019

The Fate Of HSIA

By James Harrison, Hospitality Technology Consultant at HotelTCS

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HSIA 2009 Vs 2019 - 10 Years Of Hotel Technology Evolution

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High Speed Internet Access (HSIA). Seems a bit of an antiquated moniker, but that is the agreed standard term for Internet access as part of the ecosystem of hotel technology.

Wired or wireless, HSIA as a term is here to stay. Everyone knows that rock-solid WiFi is key to top TripAdvisor scores and guest satisfaction. Let's take a look it's evolution in hotels, and how it drives brand loyalty.

Why And How Has HSIA Evolved?

Browsing some of my favourite websites one Sunday evening, I came across a post from 2009 regarding the fate of HSIA in hotels.

Reading through the post, I couldn't help but raise a wry smile. Why, you ask? Well, the relevance of the content.

Some things, identified as a point of contention regarding hotel technology only 10 years ago, still are now!

Conversely, some ideas expressed of what the future looked like, are slightly wide of the mark. That's not a criticism of the post or the writer for sure (we've discussed time travel before in our hotel digital assistants post, but it's not yet here), as I would say these were the views of a large portion of the industry.

Anyway, here are some of my thoughts on portions of that post ten years later.

The HSIA Pricing Paradox

"…… Hotel guests are puzzled by the HSIA pricing paradox. Under normal circumstances, if you follow the logic of traditional pricing points, the more you pay the more you should receive in terms of extra services and products at no additional cost. When you fly First Class, you do not pay $20 to check your baggage. Nor do airlines charge travellers additional money for the meals that they are served during flights. However, in the hotel industry, the more upscale you get, the more money guests are charged for high speed Internet access. Yet when you go to economy or even budget hotels, Internet access is often free. This frustrates hotel guests."

Funny that 10 years later, we still see the "HSIA paradox". Certainly limited and select-service hotels have moved to a single tier, free for all model, but we still see full service and luxury hotels charging upwards of $20 for 24 hours access.

Of course the answer these days, is to join the loyalty programme, with most, if not all offering free basic HSIA to the lowest tier members. Premium members get premium wifi, yet, if you don't want to sign up, you pay.

Use Hotel Technology To Generate Loyalty Not Revenue

Most hoteliers know that HSIA is no longer a way to generate secondary revenue. In fact, many of the exceptional pieces of hotel technology we have seen over the years, are just expected now, for free. So, generate loyalty, and then you have a much better chance of generating additional primary revenue.

"…… If you do not do a good job in offering reliable and fast Internet access in the hotel, your guests will not return to your hotel and/or brand. Guests want reliable HSIA connectivity in guest rooms regardless of whether they pay or not, and offering complimentary HSIA does not give hoteliers a pass to do a poor job."

Nothing is truer. In the 10 years since the statement above was written, I would expect that TripAdvisor comments regarding this have increased tenfold. Let's be honest, a guest will have checked how well it functions (and complained if necessary) before they check the shower!

The Adoption Of 4G Networks Will Be Seamless And Fast

"Today, most hotels offer wireless HSIA, but the trend is that in the next five years there will be no need for HSIA in hotels for guest use. This is because Generation 3 (3G) cellular technology is becoming a mainstream technology in the U.S. today. 3G networks typically offer between 768 kilobits per second (kbps) and 3 megabits per second (Mbps). What more, 4G networks are now in the works by many carriers. Many laptops and smartphones already support 3G and 4G technology.

The adoption of 4G networks by consumers will be seamless and fast. When they become a mainstream technology in the next five years, guests will have less of a need for HSIA in their hotels. Not only will guests bring their own HSIA into the hotel, but they will also bring their own in-room movies and games with them. All that hotels will have to do at that point is to offer a connectivity panel in guest rooms that will enable guests to connect their devices to the high definition TV."

Interesting that in 2009, the thoughts were that we would move away from local solutions, with cellular coverage slowly replacing it. 10 years later, through 3G, 4G and now 5G being rolled out, local via WiFi is here to stay. This is due in part, to the evolution of IoT as part of the Hotel Technology ecosystem.

Guests have adopted 3/4/5G fast, and indeed they do "bring their own" to the hotel. Roaming charges for data still present the biggest hurdle when away from the guests home country. Most end-users are encouraged by employers, or personal costs to connect to WiFi when using data to avoid these roaming charges.

Those USB keys didn't last as long as we expected.

Bringing their own games and movies, oh for sure. Spot on.

But probably, not in the way they predicted. The statement implies that guests would bring content to the hotel with them, which is not totally true.

Video On Demand Is In High Demand

They bring their subscription. Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, HBO Go and others are full of content for subscribers to view, and this is how guests access their content.

The downfall of revenue-generating VoD was not guests bringing content on USB drives, but cloud providers. The biggest concern for Hoteliers from this? Bandwidth.

When Connectivity Drops Off

What about that connectivity panel? That's been and gone I'm afraid. Guests don't plugin anymore, they cast, they share, they mirror. I feel that had the original post been written only a few years later this may have started to become apparent.

In fact, only one month before I wrote this post, the biggest supplier of connectivity panels and cables to the Hotel Industry, TeleAdapt, stopped trading in the UK, after having the entire market sown up for years!

Let HotelTCS Take The Guesswork Away

Getting Hotel Technology right in 2019 is vital. Your hotel is more than just a building, and the right technology can make it the ultimate experience.

Interested to know if you still need local HSIA?

Wondering how to enable your guests to access their own content?

Contact HotelTCS now to see where connectivity trends will be in another 10 years!

Follow us on LinkedIn for more Hotel Technology Content.

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