Thursday, 22 January 2015

Some countries do free and fast wi-fi well; but not Australia or the US

If you've stayed in an Australian hotel recently you'll probably be aware that the wi-fi probably isn't free, and almost certainly isn't fast. 

It is still common in Australia for hotels and motels to charge up to $30 a day for access to wi-fi that is marginally faster than dial-up speed. 

Slowly but surely, more hotels, from chains like Rydges and Hyatt to boutiques like the Balmoral on York in Launceston, are offering free wif-fi for all guests. But it has been a long, slow road with much resistance from hoteliers. 

And the news is no better in the United States. According to a new survey announced by HotelWiFiTest this week, most countries have higher quality hotel wi-fi than the US. 

In this report, wi-fi quality is expressed by the percentage of hotels that offer adequate wi-fi quality in a given geographical area. For most travellers, having super-fast and consistently stable wi-fi is a bonus, but their first priority is that basic quality expectations for Internet access are met.
The free w-fi percentage is calculated as a ratio of hotels that offer free in-room. Hotels that offer free wi-fi only in public areas are not counted as hotels with free wi-fi.
So which country comes out on top from this global survey? South Korea. It is the leader in hotel wi-fi quality (92%) by a healthy margin of 7.1% to the second-best country: Japan.
In terms of quality then come Ukraine, Switzerland, Romania, Hong Kong, Sweden, Norway, Taiwan and Hungary. 
And if you want to be almost certain that you are not going to be hit with wi-fi charges, then Scandinavia is your best bet of the 50 major nations surveyed, with 92.4% of hotels in Norway and 91% in Sweden offering in room wi-fi free of charge. 
And how does Australia rate? Not well, as you might expect. It comes in 24th of 50 with quality at just over 50% and availability of free wi-fi rated at a surprisingly high 42.1%. 
That compares extremely unfavourably with places like Thailand (72.4%) and Vietnam, where an all-nations high of 95.2% of hotels offer free wi-fi. 
If you are looking for both quality and free wi-fi, Stockholm and Budapest are among your best bets.
Unfortunately, in Australia (and the US, where quality hovers around 40%) we still have a very long way to go to match South-East Asia, where free wi-fi in hotels and cafes, often very fast, is almost de rigueur.
“Internet connectivity is no longer an amenity. It has become an integral part of travellers’ daily lives and a basic expectation,” says Hyatt vice-president of brands, Kristine Rose, whose chain will have free wi-fi globally by next month. 
“Travellers shouldn't have to remember which brands or locations offer it for free or the strings attached to get it.”
Amen to that.   

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