Why you should care
Because if you’re going to pay for a hotel that has Wi-Fi, it’d better work.
Things can fall apart when the Wi-Fi goes, taking with it your ability to tweet, email and check the Giant Panda Cam. Especially when you’re on the road.
Theoretically, hotels with Wi-Fi Internet access should prevent such mishaps. If only it were that easy. As with their minibars, hotel Wi-Fi isn’t equal wherever you go. Many a frequent traveler has checked into a room only to be frustrated by connectivity issues or sluggish speeds.
Like hotel minibars, Wi-Fi just isn’t equal wherever you go.
That’s where Hotel WiFi Test comes in. It’s a Wi-Fi watchdog that gathers and displays Wi-Fi quality at thousands of hotels around the world. Data is crowdsourced: Anyone at a hotel can use the site to do a speed test, and the results are then added to the database.
Before booking, you can check Hotel WiFi Test to see if a particular hotel has been tested. You’ll be told what Wi-Fi speed to expect, as well as the potential maximum speed at the hotel.
But make sure to take each listing with a grain of salt: The “confidence” percentage shows how thoroughly the Wi-Fi has been tested at each property (higher is better). That thoroughness is determined by how many tests were recorded and how recently they were done, and the particular times of day, week and travel season.
Take New York City, for example: Even though tests at the Da Vinci Hotel suggest that it has the fastest expected Wi-Fi (53.1 megabits per second, or Mbps), the second-place New York Hilton Midtown’s Wi-Fi (52.6 Mbps) has a dramatically higher confidence rating — 98 percent — than Da Vinci’s 9.2 percent. If you’ll be cramming for a client meeting and need to upload a presentation to Dropbox overnight, the Hilton could be the safer way to go.
Hotels that provide good Wi-Fi are happy that … their investment to the network infrastructure is visible to travelers looking for accommodation.
The growing site, which launched in October 2013, has Wi-Fi tests from hotels in about 1,762 cities around the world. Since the data is all crowdsourced, it may not be as comprehensive as most travelers might like; the hotel you’re interested in might not have been tested thoroughly or at all. But in a world of Yelp for restaurant reviews and Angie’s List for vetting contractors, consumers now have the power to weigh in on an increasingly valuable hotel service.
Hotel WiFi Test’s president, Yaroslav Goncharov, says the site has already heard from tested hotels. “Some hotels with poor Wi-Fi are really angry,” Goncharov told OZY in a statement. “Hotels that provide good Wi-Fi are happy that now results of their investment to the network infrastructure is visible to travelers looking for accommodation.”
Hotel WiFi Test lives up to its name by testing only Wi-Fi connections. If a hotel has a wired Internet connection (generally considered more secure), that’s not measured. But since mobile devices can’t easily connect to wired Ethernet ports, wired is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the average traveler.
Worst case, if all Internet connections fail, you can still tether your smartphone’s cellular data connection to your Wi-Fi devices (just be aware of your data limits). Or do something truly radical — like hit the hotel swimming pool or happy hour for some offline recreation.