Hotels are sort of like countries with regard to broadband use. The guests have to obtain broadband connectivity from the hotel (let’s disregard the 3G option for now); residents in a country have to obtain broadband from providers licensed by the government. When quality drops, users hold the hotel accountable; in case of a country, the ISP is held accountable. In the case of hotels, the traveler can choose to not stay in the hotel where connectivity is poor. In the case of a country, one can switch ISPs, but if the constriction is in the cables linking the country to the Internet cloud, it may not make much difference.
We’ve been talking about a data tsunami/flood for some time now. The basic argument has been that data use will increase massively causing congestion on the expensive cable links to the cloud and will degrade user experience.
Here is another way to tell the same story. What is happening to hotels today, will happen to countries where most Internet content is external. Asian governments and broadband suppliers have a choice: act now to increase cable capacity and thereby reduce capacity costs from their currently excessive levels (3-6 times those of Europe and N America); or wait ’till the tsunami hits.
Largely because of the broad use of iPads and other mobile tablets, which are heavy users of video streaming, the guest room Wi-Fi networks that most hotels thought they had brought up to standard just a few years ago are now often groaning under user demands.
“The iPad is the fastest-selling device in consumer electronics history, and because of it the demand placed on any public place Wi-Fi system has gone up exponentially in the last year and a half,” said David W. Garrison, the chief executive of iBAHN, a provider of systems for the hotel and meetings industries.
This means more hotel customers are unhappy with their Internet connections. Hotel owners, meanwhile, who are digging out from a two-year slump caused by the recession, will probably have to invest more money to provide more bandwidth.
For travelers, it may mean still another fee, since hotels will be paying their own Internet bills. Some hotel Internet service providers are proposing a solution that offers tiered Wi-Fi service. The lowest level, suitable for basic Internet requirements like checking e-mail, would be free, but other levels would be priced depending on bandwidth requirements. According to iBAHN, iPads consume four times more Wi-Fi data per month than the average smartphone.
The iPad represents the “final nail in the coffin” for the idea that all Internet is free, Mr. Garrison said.