WiFi 6 vs Ethernet: Which is Better for Hotel Connectivity?
Hotel internet connectivity is vital for satisfying guest needs and powering staff operations. With more devices than ever online in guest rooms and public areas, hotels require robust networks. Is it better to upgrade to cutting-edge WiFi 6 or run Ethernet cable throughout your property?
In this guide, we’ll compare WiFi 6 and Ethernet for hotel networking and examine the pros and cons of each technology. You’ll learn:
- How WiFi 6 improves on previous WiFi standards
- Benefits of WiFi 6 for hotel networks
- When Ethernet may be the better wired option
- Factors to weigh when choosing WiFi or Ethernet
- Leading solutions for hotel connectivity
Read on for expert insight into deploying the ideal network infrastructure across your hotel.
Introducing WiFi 6 (802.11ax)
WiFi 6, also known as 802.11ax, is the latest generation of WiFi technology. It builds on 802.11ac with significant upgrades to improve wireless performance in high-density environments like hotels, stadiums, and conference centers.
Some key improvements over 802.11ac include:
Faster top speeds – Up to 9.6 Gbps maximum versus 6.9 Gbps with 802.11ac. Real-world speeds will be lower but still faster than the previous standard.
More simultaneous connections – Supports 4X more devices connected concurrently versus 802.11ac. Ideal for when many guests are online.
Better range – Signals reach farther from the access points for wider coverage. Reduces needs for additional APs.
Enhanced OFDMA technology – Allows more data transmission across smaller sub-carriers simultaneously, increasing efficiency.
Extended battery life – Target Wake Time (TWT) lets devices sleep when not actively transmitting data to preserve battery.
Backwards compatibility – WiFi 6 devices can connect to 802.11ac and 802.11n networks. But you need WiFi 6 routers and devices to see full benefits.
In summary, WiFi 6 handles more devices at once, transmits faster top speeds, extends range, is more efficient, and consumes less power. For hotels facing an influx of bandwidth-hungry guests and their multiple gadgets, WiFi 6 checks all the boxes for better wireless performance.
Benefits of WiFi 6 for Hotels
Here are some of the key benefits WiFi 6 offers hotel networks specifically:
Supports High Density
WiFi 6 is engineered to maintain fast speeds and reliability even with many devices accessing the network concurrently across a large area like a hotel. Technologies like orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA) allow more devices to connect without clogging up bandwidth.
With previous WiFi versions, devices had to compete for airtime and bandwidth. WiFi 6 uses technologies like TWT to stagger transmissions so devices aren’t all trying to transmit at once. This reduces congestion and latency.
WiFi 6 access points can broadcast a strong signal farther than 802.11ac APs. This means fewer dead zones around the hotel where guests struggle to get online. It also reduces the number of APs needed for full coverage.
Enhances IoT Capabilities
More and more devices are connecting to hotel networks beyond phones and laptops. WiFi 6 efficiently handles Internet of Things gadgets like voice assistants, smart TVs, sensors, locks, lights, and more.
Powers Next-Gen Experiences
Fast and robust WiFi 6 networks will support emerging guest services and amenities like AR/VR applications, 8K video streaming, smart room controls, and high-density gaming/meeting spaces.
WiFi 6 APs work with older WiFi 5 and WiFi 4 devices simultaneously. However, legacy devices can’t take full advantage of 802.11ax speed and efficiency gains.
When Does Ethernet Make More Sense for Hotels?
WiFi 6 sounds almost too good to be true for hotel networking. Are there cases when hotels should still run Ethernet cable over deploying the latest wireless APs?
While WiFi 6 checks many boxes, Ethernet remains the gold standard for speed, reliability, and low latency. Here are some instances where Ethernet may be preferable:
Guest Rooms – For the best streaming, gaming, and video call performance. WiFi congestion can cripple connections.
Back of House – Wired connections for critical systems like POS, security cameras, and door locks. Removes reliability concerns of wireless.
New Construction – Conduit makes running Ethernet to each room and space easier and cheaper during initial build.
Budget Concerns – Upgrading to WiFi 6 requires buying new access points. Ethernet leverages existing network hardware.
Large Properties – Ethernet easily scales to 1,000+ rooms without congestion or bottleneck issues of wireless.
In summary, hotels should strongly consider Ethernet for in-room connections to guarantee fast speeds. For back of house systems, wired Ethernet removes concerns over WiFi interference or congestion affecting critical operations. In new builds, Ethernet conduit costs little during construction compared to retrofitting.
For many hoteliers, budget is a significant factor too. Upgrading to WiFi 6 requires buying new access points, whereas Ethernet uses existing switches and cabling. And finally, large resorts and convention hotels may find Ethernet more seamlessly scalable than even the latest WiFi technology.
Key Considerations for Hotel Networks
When evaluating WiFi 6 versus Ethernet, keep the following factors in mind:
Guest Experience – Will WiFi or Ethernet deliver the best speeds and reliability for guests? This may vary by hotel type and target demographic.
Staff Needs – Do mobile devices rely on WiFi? Or are staff mostly stationary and wired connections sufficient?
Existing Infrastructure – Can existing network hardware be leveraged? Does new construction provide an opportunity to install Ethernet conduit throughout the property?
Budget – How much is available to invest upfront in networking upgrades? What are the ongoing costs?
IT Resources – Is there sufficient IT staff to install, monitor and troubleshoot WiFi 6? Or is a simpler wired network preferred?
Scalability – How well will the network adjust to accommodate future growth and higher bandwidth needs?
As you weigh these factors, identify priority areas like the lobby and guest rooms where fast connectivity is non-negotiable. Also project future needs like IoT integrations that may favor WiFi 6. With robust WiFi and targeted Ethernet, hotels can deliver connectivity exceeding guest demands.
Leading Hotel Networking Solutions
WiFi 6 Access Points
Leading enterprise WiFi vendors like Cisco Meraki, Aruba, and Ruckus offer 802.11ax access points to upgrade wireless performance. Some PoE powered options ease installation. Support plans vary.
Managed WiFi Services
Companies like Hotel Internet Services, Guesttek, and Wave WiFi specialize in hotel WiFi with remote monitoring, troubleshooting, and branded guest portals. Expert guidance on upgrading WiFi networks.
Cisco, Juniper, Aruba, and more provide high-capacity Ethernet switches to accommodate wired connections. Choose PoE models to provide device power over the Ethernet cable.
In-Room Ethernet Jacks
Vendors like Serenity Technologies install additional Ethernet ports in guest rooms for more reliable wired connections beyond baseline WiFi.
Structured Cabling Installers
Cabling companies can install Ethernet conduit during new construction or pull cables to add connections in existing properties. Certified for in-wall and outdoor runs.
IT Integration Firms
Experienced integrators like Smart City Networks and Transparent can install and configure the optimal WiFi and Ethernet setup tailored to your hotel’s needs.
The Bottom Line
Reliable, fast connectivity is now a must-have for hotels rather than an amenity. With more devices and data demands than ever, legacy networks struggle to keep up. Upgrading WiFi to 802.11ax and adding Ethernet in key areas can deliver robust connectivity exceeding guest expectations.
For the best of both technologies, use Ethernet for wired back of house systems and in guest rooms. Then deploy WiFi 6 to provide blanket wireless coverage across public areas, meeting rooms and other hard to wire spaces. This hybrid approach maximizes flexibility while guaranteeing performance. By leveraging the strengths of each technology, hotels can build future-ready networks that simply work.