Cell Phone Service Can Make or Break a Hotel

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“The cell service really sucks in here.” Seven words no hotel GM wants to hear – yet many hear it from guests and employees on a regular basis. Worse, many see this sentiment expressed in online reviews on sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Some of these sites even have categories such as ‘best hotels with cell phone reception.’ Why is this so important? Because good cellphone reception is a BIG consumer concern.

Having good cellular service is a critical component of the overall guestexperience at hotels, with consumers expecting ubiquitous connectivity wherever they go. Wireless is now known as the fourth utility. And just like guests won’t stay in a hotel with no electricity or running water, in today’s market, they won’t stay in a hotel without good cell service.

Hospitality Technology agrees, “Travelers increasingly rely on their cell phones for both business and personal use. In-room landline telephone use is a thing of the past. Many hotel chains are even taking cell-phone use to the next level. Both Hilton and Starwood hotels offer digital keyless check-in and entry through their cell phone apps. Loyal customers can now avoid that annoying long check-in line altogether by simply opening their hotel’s app and gain- ing keyless entry to their rooms. Without a strong cellular and data signal in your hotel, that process becomes moredifficult.”

A landmark survey found that 54 percent of affluent adults aged 35-54 might not re-book at a hotel where cell phone reception was poor. Yet the industry as a whole remains behind the technology curve. When it comes to how a hotel is perceived, nothing can destroy a reputation like poor cellphone coverage. But many hotel owners and operators still aren’t upgrading the quality and availability of their cell phone signals. Why?


1. Many hotel operators think providing WiFi is enough. Here’s why it’s not:

  • A mobile cell signal and a hotel’s Wi-Fi are completely independent of one another. Properties do not need one or the other; they need both.
  • Guests prefer better mobile coverage rather than better Wi-Fi because an open Wi-Fi network is unsafe and can easily be hacked.

“Just like guests won’t stay in a hotel with no electricity or running water, in today’s market, they won’t stay in a hotel without good cell phone service.”

  • Business travelers are reviewing sensitive information constantly and they demand the secure connection for banking and data transfer that only 3G and 4G can provide.
  • Travelers of every demographic fully expect to be able to place calls, send text messages, or check their Facebook page and social media accounts from their own smart phone. Simply put, guests need the speed and security of a clear 3G and 4G connection in order to complete their mobile communications while in a hotel or resort.
  • Focusing solely on Wi-Fi can create bandwidth issues. If many users are accessing the signal at the same time (including front desk tablets, mobile check in, and employees’ cell phones), all these devices are eating up the bandwidth set aside for guests. The hotel or resort will encounter slow signal and negatively impact the guest experience. All properties need high-quality, secure 3G and 4G signals to ensure that bandwidth is set aside for the right people, and that all signals are running strong for guests.
  • Hotel staff need full 3G and 4G signals to ensure that internal communication is at its best. Hotel managers and staff now depend on instant communication via text message and placing calls on their own mobile devices. Much of this communication involves the back of house, or the basement of the building. It is imperative that employees can still communicate when they’re on break or in the back of house in order to ensure customers get the fastest service possible.

2. Some hotels want to pass responsibility back to the wireless carriers but this doesn’t work for most:

  • It is no longer the responsibility of the wireless carriers to provide coverage inside your building. If the carrier provides coverage to the outside of your building, they have done their job. It’s up to you to bring it inside.
  • In a few cases – such as for very large hotels or those in major event or convention cities – an individual wireless carrier may be willing to invest in an in-building wireless system to improve coverage at a hotel’s property, but the carriers have limited budgets and must prioritize.
  • Unless your property provides strategic value, it is unlikely the carriers will offer to pay for wireless infrastructure upgrades at your property.
  • If a carrier does pay, you will only have coverage for that particular carrier or you will have to strike separate deals with each of the other major carriers.

3. Some hotel operators think wireless upgrades will be too expensive but this is not necessarily the case.

  • Passive cellular repeater systems like the WilsonPro can be designed to provide seamless coverage through buildings of all sizes and even through- out entire campuses for far less money than traditional active systems.
  • These systems can be “agnostic” or carrier-neutral, meaning they amplify the available signal from all carriers.
  • Smart capital investments are a necessary part of business operations. Would a hotel choose not to install water or heat because it was too expensive?


Several possible answers exist for poor cell phone connectivity. What will work for one property, however, may not be the best for another. Choosing the right system for your hotel or resort can be a confusing and daunting process without expert advice.

Illuminati Labs will help you assess the property’s size and extent of coverage needed, determine a sensible budget, clarify all of the options for enhancing your property’s cell phone coverage and then install the system in an aesthetically pleasing way with minimal disturbance to guests. We will analyze and measure your current reception from every angle, review your needs and help you get the most boost for your buck. Here is a general overview of themost common solutions:

1. At the limited-coverage end of the solution scale are small cells:

  • These work only with certain cellular networks, restricting their usefulness to a property where guests will be using a wide variety of cellular providers.

2. At the other end, is a passive cellular repeater system, also known as a passive distributed antenna system (DAS): *SEE brief “DAS 101 article”

  • Cellular repeater systems are designed to handle a variety of property configurations from boutique hotels to giant resorts. A cell repeater system works by taking an existing wireless signal and amplifying it throughout the entire building.
  • The system can accommodate specific locales as small as 5,000 square feet up to entire multi-site, multi-story properties. Hotels can choose a cell repeater system that improves signal strength onALL the major network carriers, as U.S. consumers need access to Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile network carriers.

Hotels and resorts that can boast outstanding cell phone reception today have an edge over rivals that cannot offer the same level of service. Guests have many lodging choices, and they are willing to use social media to broadcast their opinions about a hotel’s voice and data service. An Illuminati Labs cellular repeater system can help you create happier guests.