How to Check Wi-Fi Reliability & Speed at Hotels Before Booking a Room
If you're anything like me, every time you travel you end up in a desperate panic for a decent W-Fi connection. Whether you want to post your photos, research the best beaches, or kill time during an overnight layover, a hotel's Wi-Fi quality is of paramount significance in making a reservation.
For this reason, you can use the Hotel WiFi Test website to weigh your options, and decide on the right reservation. Using the site is quite simple, so in addition to a short how-to, I'm going to add a few things you should consider while using the service.
There's nothing complicated about Hotel WiFi Test. Simply go to hotelwifitest.com and type in a city name to view hotels in the area. From there, you'll be given a list of tested hotels ranked by their Wi-Fi's "expected speeds" in Mbps.
In addition to telling you whether or not Wi-Fi is free, the site gives you three important metrics to consider:
- Expected Speeds - What you would "likely" get at any random point in the day.
- Maximum Speeds - The bandwidth potential of the hotel, which you may or may not reach during off-peak hours.
- Confidence - How thoroughly the hotspot has been tested at the hotel. The number of tests, how recently they occurred, and the variance in time of day, are all factored to determine the confidence reading.
One of the first things you see in Hotel WiFi Test is the question "Are you in a hotel right now?" Upon clicking "Yes," you are taken to a custom Wi-Fi speed tester, and if the website's location services agree that you are in fact in a hotel, they will test the Wi-Fi and factor it in to the hotel's listed averages.
What's the problem with this?
Well, crowdsourcing can be manipulated and unreliable. Suppose you work for the Holiday Inn across the street from a Hampton Inn. What's to stop you from driving to Hampton Inn's parking lot and testing their Wi-Fi from a less-than-optimal spot?
By the same token, suppose you work for Holiday Inn and test your Wi-Fi at 5 a.m. while standing directly next to the router with no physical obstruction whatsoever.
Regardless of foul-play, there are just too many environmental factors that come in to play when testing network speeds. The testers physical location, the number of users sharing bandwidth, the number of Wi-Fi networks around the hotel, and hell, even the user's proximity to a microwave can influence the registered Mbps.
Arguably, small town hotels are the ones that need this feature most. If you're staying in New York City, you're going to get Wi-Fi—one way or another, you will be connected. But suppose you're a business traveler spending the night in North Platte, Nebraska, on your way to a conference in Denver.
No one has tested North Platte motels, and if you stay at the 1½ starred Knights Inn with "expected speeds" of 11.5 Mbps, you might end up out of luck.
Very few of us like lugging a laptop around when we travel, especially when our phones are plenty capable of doing what we need. Fortunately, Hotel WiFi Test will work on your Android or iPhone, too.
Just like on your computer, you can view a city's search result as a list or map, and once you're in the vicinity of a hotel, you can test the Wi-Fi with your phone. There is no knowing how many crowdsourced speed tests were submitted via phone, but a phone's antenna size and its presence on a crowded frequency will certainly influence the results.
Another option for Android and iPhone is a free app called WiFiMojo, which also utilizes crowdsourced speed tests to inform users of wireless internet quality. However, it doesn't appear many users are using this app, so for the time being, the app is virtually useless.
The speed tested hotels are represented with the green Wi-Fi icon, and even in a city as populous as Los Angeles, there is very little crowdsourcing going on.
Right now, Hotel WiFi Test has more contributors than any other hotel Wi-Fi review site I've come across. For this reason, it's technically more reliable and definitely worth considering before booking—although I wouldn't hang my entire decision on it.
If anything, it's probably a reliable way to tell which hotels have terrible Wi-Fi, and which one's at least work. If you've experienced a better and more reliable means of remotely testing hotel Wi-Fi, let us know!