Summer is here, and your well-deserved vacation is close. You have been anticipating your trip to the Fijis or Maledives for months now, and the thought of a white sandy beach with palm trees and blue turquoise surf spicing up your Facebook profile makes your smile brighter. If grandma should miss the kiddies, they can always have a video call, free WiFi is included!
Chances are that you've already experienced that reality looks a bit different once you are there. In lone paradise resorts, away from civilization, free WiFi is standard, but the speed may more often than not leave a lot to be desired. Already in the plane, even in the latest A380, the connection may initially work well, but after a while begin to stall. Maybe you'll just download the picture attachment of that email later.
Arrived at the hotel, you are waiting for your turn in the queue at the check-in counter. Is that the ideal moment to send a first snapshot to your loved ones, post on Facebook, Instagram or check out the latest FIFA World Cup results? Bummer - while the spinner, donut or circle or whatever moving icon indicates waiting time on your screen rotates forever, the page stays blank. No chance.
Thats's annoying, but let's face it - WiFi on the plane - aren't we all a bit spoiled? At home, fiber-optic in every home, dial-up node two blocks away, such problems barely exist. But at 35,000 ft flight altitude or in the heavenly bay on the smallest island of Seychelles away from any urban civilization ... how do they actually manage to have internet at all?
The connection to the Internet any hotel or other company needs to be able to offer "free WiFi" is technically called uplink. The uplink is provided by an ISP (internet service provider: telecom or other specialized companies) via a fiber optic or, if not available, copper cable. You've probably figured out already that the fiber optic cable is by far the most powerful. But copper isn't bad either - if it reaches where the hotel is.
The most beautiful locations for holiday resorts are rarely the city centers, but often remote scenic areas in the mountains, in nature reserves, and so on. The more isolated the zone, the more frequently a radio network has to bridge the end of the underground cable to the tourist resort.
And what about islands? Larger island are often connected via deep sea cables - check out this interesting sea cable world map. For atolls, the cable usually only reaches up to the main island, after which a radio network has to fill in the blanks, or a satellite, like on a plane. But this is probably the most expensive uplink, and the bandwidth is limited.
Don't we have data highways everywhere? Partly yes. But just like real highways, they won't cover all the way to your position. Plus, rush hour traffic can be tight and even the most powerful network will get congested when all are on the road at the same time. In the narrower copper cable lanes and at the intersections between the technologies then, traffic nearly grinds to a halt. This last piece of the road, which covers the connection from the fiber optic highway to you and your devices is what technicians like to call the last mile.
By now you might have guessed that this last mile also includes the free WiFi in your hotel. The most beautiful holiday season is of course fully booked, with most tourists following similar patterns. Moreover, they all have the same idea as you: Show your friends and relatives how great it is here.
But don't worry - there's something you can do about it. Here's how to stop WiFi trouble from ruining your holiday.
1. The right time.
Avoid peak times. By far the most common issues with slow connections are timeouts - it just takes too long for your device to get a response to a web request, so it issues an error message. The best solution: Surfing when there is little going on! Watch when most of the guests in the house play with their mobile phone and avoid these times. Get there early or very late for breakfast or dinner, and check your emails while the crowd is eating. The fewer people in the network, the more bandwidth for you. You like to stay up late? Perfect, when everybody else is sleeping night owls get free rein.
2. The right place.
WiFi is influenced by many different factors. It is a radio technology and consists of signals that pass through walls, bounce off from certain surfaces and can be absorbed by people and materials. Sometimes you may get perfect reception in a certain place, and other times not. Move around to see where the signal is strongest. But note: You can have a perfect signal, but still no Internet connection: see#3
3. On again / off again.
WiFi signal is fine, but you are still offline? This is when you should open a browser, try to load any page and see what happens. In most hotels a login page shows up where you can insert credentials you might have been given at check-in. There may be some instructions on the page what you should do next to obtain access. If the trial fails, close the browser, re-open it and try a different web page. You can also de-activate WiFi on your phone and switch it on again. This may fix the redirect issue and get you to the right login page.
4. Departure days rule.
In most resorts there are certain arrival and departure days (often Saturday, but ask at the reception desk). An entire group is at the check-out counter? It will take a while until the rooms are cleaned and taken again; the next arrival is only in a few hours. Let's go - board the WiFi!
5. A matter of settings.
Depending on how many apps are active, your smartphone automatically sets up multiple data connections in the background at the same time. This can burden and slow down web access, especially if updates come along. Most of these updates go usually unnoticed by us.
Disable some apps or at least the automatic updates. If necessary, let it run at night – so you have a freshly upgraded device when you get up, and during the day, you’ll surf smoother.
For Android devices, automatic updates of apps can be bulk disabled in the Google Play Store in menu settings. For Apple devices, scroll down in settings to iTunes & App Store to disable automatic updates.
6. Be nice to the crew.
Most hotels do their utmost to make sure that you as a discerning guest have the best possible Internet connection. They buy great software with bandwidth management like the IACBOX, equip indoor and outdoor areas with good hardware coverage, etc. But if a cable connection drowns in the tropical rain, the controller loses configuration due to power failure, or a thunderstorm paralyzes the radio antenna, they need time to fix everything. The nearest network specialist is sometimes hundreds of kilometers away.
7. Buy a premium package.
Some hotels and clubs offer paid WiFi packages with a higher bandwidth. A good thing if you have to work occasionally on vacation. Check with the front desk, and if there is a ticket with guaranteed bandwidth then go for it. But beware – if a technical problem is involved, the VIP ticket will not help, and avoiding the digital rush hour is still recommended.
8. Do not disturb.
And if the WiFi fails completely? Relax and unwind – nowadays there are Tourism concepts where money is paid for guaranteed offline time. After all, this is your long-awaited vacation! Swamped inboxes and communication overkill will catch up soon enough afterwards. Now go snorkeling, hiking, improve your archery or enjoy the sun with your loved ones.
Have a beautiful holiday! We’ll be off now.
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At Asteas, we see it as our task to shape wireless Internet access in networks efficient and legally conformant for the supplier, efficient and comfortable for the user and secure for both.
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