In addition to cleanliness and decor, hotel visitors rate Internet access as the most important feature when booking accommodation. Unfortunately though, many hotels battle with guaranteed uptime and throughput.
Maintaining ratings is based on a number of factors for hoteliers and lodge owners. Obviously, the décor and amenities play a large role in winning favour with guests, but there is another element that is fast becoming a decision maker when guests weigh up their accommodation options. Internet and cellular connectivity are considered non-negotiable for business people and holidaymakers alike. Ensuring that the connection is of a high standard, with guaranteed uptime and throughput is, however, something that many establishments battle with.
According to Marco de Ru, CTO at wireless convergence company MiRO, it is understandable that lodge owners and hoteliers are not IT specialists and therefore they may make incorrect choices when implementing a Wi-Fi solution. “Hotel and lodge management are generally bombarded with irrelevant information such as IEEE operating standards, throughput capacity and so forth. This may result in them selecting a Wi-Fi solution that one would typically use for a home environment, based primarily on price.”
Certain steps are critical to ensure reliability of connection. The first is finding an experienced installer or system integrator with a proven track record, preferably in the hospitality sector, who will select technology that will optimise the guest Wi-Fi experience. Hand-in-glove with this goes the appointment of an internet service provider (ISP) who can provide sufficient bandwidth and high levels of throughput. A Service Level Agreements (SLA) must be provided, outlining appropriate levels of network and user support, as well as remote monitoring of the system, to provide proactive maintenance.
Three questions generally need to be answered when planning a solution: (1) What is the size of the establishment? (2) What type of traffic will be allowed on the Wi-Fi network? (3) Is a hotspot management service required?
De Ru explains that understanding the physical structure allows for provision of the best possible solution as Wi-Fi signals are quickly dampened by brick walls and concrete ceilings, especially for devices operating in the 5GHz frequency.
If users are permitted to freely browse the internet and access streaming services such as Netflix, and allow file sharing like torrent services, one needs to be aware that these services are bandwidth hungry and can quickly bring the Wi-Fi network to a standstill. Finally, a hotspot management service or portal allows establishment management to manage and control guest access.
The deployment of Wi-Fi routers and switches as well as strategically placed access points (APs) will provide guests with an opportunity to communicate and achieve internet connectivity, even when their cellular service provider’s signal is weak.
Security of networks is a common issue and this needs to be addressed by hoteliers as a priority. “Deploying the latest managed switches or routers to effectively route internet traffic across the network is a good first step. These switches and routers offer greater security features and can direct internet packets to the appropriate recipients only, rather than to all parties on the network. The networks should also take advantage of the switches’ Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) capabilities, which allows multiple networks to be running in a secure environment off the same switch,” says De Ru.
A solution recommended by MiRO is Open-Mesh Wi-Fi access points and switches. The Open Mesh technology is characterised by its simplicity of installation and ease of use. By registering an account on the Open Mesh cloud-based management system, one can set up a guest network SSID (Service Set Identifier – the name that guests will connect to), then when users log in it can divert the traffic to either the establishment’s landing page or through to its Facebook page.
Voucher-based authentication can be enabled, with customisation determining how much upstream and downstream speed each device will be allowed, how much data will be free, or allowing integration with a third-party hotspot billing solution like Cloud4Wi or Purple WiFi. Management can also have a separate SSID for the reception desk or for the accounts team.
Once all Wi-Fi SSIDs have been created, one simply adds the access points to the CloudTrax management platform by using the device’s MAC (Media Access Control) address. “Then you simply power up the devices and ensure that they do have internet access, whereafter the device will automatically look for the CloudTrax information and the configuration will be pushed down to each access point,” says De Ru.
A major benefit Open-Mesh provides is that it is a MESH Wi-Fi network. This means that not all access points need to be connected by network cables – the range of the wireless network can be expanded by simply adding new access points in areas with poor Wi-Fi signals and connecting them to a power outlet. These access points will connect wirelessly to the network and expand the reach and signal quality of the network (MESH). This is very convenient in buildings where it is not easy or aesthetically possible to run new network cables.
“One of the key aspects in a successful Wi-Fi deployment include the focus on the initial design, configuration and implementation of the system. The problem affecting most installations comes down to infrastructure and the coordination of the location of wireless access points and the associated cabling. MiRO’s technical team is able to assist WISPs, installers and integrators with customising a solution that will factor in all the elements of a successful Wi-Fi deployment,” says De Ru.
Deezer to host Hotstix’s Mandela tribute playlist
Deezer is celebrating Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birthday by hosting a tribute playlist created by music legend Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.
Mabuse, a legendary figure in African music, first rose to prominence in the 1970s with his band Harari and later developed a name for himself as a solo artist. One of his best known songs was the global hit BurnOut in the 1980s.
The playlist takes the listener on a captivating musical journey through the life of Nelson Mandela. It was compiled by Mabuse, who consulted with Mandela’s family and friends to ensure that the music would be relevant and accurate. The playlist also features commentary by Mabuse, which was recorded in his Soweto home.
“I have tried to tell the story of the music that Madiba loved,” says Mabuse. “The Playlist excludes the time in prison obviously, as Madiba would not have had exposure to music in that time. We have focused on the music we know he loved before and after that period. This recording was really an emotional journey for me, but an incredible opportunity to document these memories.”
The playlist features the music the young Mandela loved, such as The Manhattan Brothers, Solomon Linda, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba. It includes struggle songs from Chicco, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka. The playlist also includes Mandela by Zahara, one of the younger artists who caught Madiba’s ear.
Mabuse also offers stories of his own songs, such as Shikisha, a song greatly beloved by the former President.
“I was delighted to share my thoughts and hope the listeners enjoyed the musical journey,” says Mabuse. “Madiba did enjoy music immensely and we all have a purpose wherever we are in the world to celebrate culture and to learn from different cultures and music forms and styles.”
This playlist was inspired by the Nelson Mandela 100 campaign, calling on corporates and individuals to act as sources of inspiration and engage in conversation and action.
Sports streaming takes off
Live streaming of sports is coming of age as a mainstream method of viewing big games, as the latest FIFA World Cup figures from the UK show. Africa isn’t yet at the same level when it comes to the adoption of sports streaming, but usage is clearly moving in the right direction.
England’s World Cup quarter-final against Sweden was watched by just under 20 million viewers in the UK via BBC One. While this traditional broadcast audience was huge, it was streaming that broke records: the game was the BBC’s most popular online-viewed live programme ever, with 3.8 million views. In Africa, the absolute numbers are lower but the trend towards streaming major sports events on the continent is also well under way.
According to DStv, live streaming of sports dominates the usage figures for its live and recorded TV streaming app, DStv Now. The number of people using the app in June was five times higher than a year ago, with concurrent views peaking during major football and rugby games.
Since the start of the World Cup, average weekday usage of DStv Now is up 60%. The absolute peak in concurrent usage for one event was reached on 26 June, during the Nigeria vs Argentina game. The app’s biggest ever test was on 16 June with both Springbok Rugby and World Cup Football under way at the same time, resulting in concurrent in-app views seven times higher than the peaks seen in June last year.
The World Cup has also been a major reason for new users to download and try out the app. First-time app user volumes have tripled on Android and doubled on iOS since the start of the tournament.
“While we expected live sports streaming to take off, it’s also been pleasing to see that the app is really popular for watching shows on Catch Up,” says MultiChoice South Africa Chief Operating Officer Mark Rayner. “Interestingly, some of the most popular Catch Up shows are local, with Isibaya, Binnelanders, The Queen and The River all getting a significant number of views.”
With respect to app usage, the web and Android apps are the most popular way to watch DStv Now, with Android outpacing iOS by a factor of 2:1.
“We’re continuing to develop DStv Now, with 4k streaming in testing and smart TV and Apple TV apps on their way shortly,” says Rayner. “The other key priority for us is working with the telcos to deliver mobile data propositions that make watching online painless and worry-free for our customers.”
The DStv Now app is free to all 10 million DStv customers in Africa. The app streams DStv live channels as well as supplying an extended Catch Up library. Two separate streams can be watched on different devices simultaneously, and content can also be downloaded to smartphones and tablets. The content available on the app varies according to the DStv package subscribed to.