Sprint 1, Club Quarters 02011-03-30
Knowing I’d be traveling on a Monday, I called the hotel where I had a reservation—the Club Quarters on 45th in Manhattan, to ask about the in-room Net access. Mondays are generally recording days for For Immediate Release, the PR-focused podcast I’ve been co-hosting with Neville Hobson since early 2005. We record over Skype, so a decent connection is a requirement.
The answer from the polite gentleman who answered my call was reassuring: “We’ve had very few complaints from our guests about the in-room WiFi and, if that doesn’t work, you can always use the hard-wired connection in the rooms.” Perfect, I thought; I’m covered. I let Neville know we could proceed as usual.
I got to my room on the seventh floor on Sunday night, popped open the laptop, and found a signal so weak the laptop wouldn’t even make a connection. I spent a good five minutes searching for the Ethernet jack, but it was non-existent. When I called down to the front desk, I was told none of the rooms were equipped for wired connections. The desk clerk did move me to the tenth floor where WiFi signals were stronger.
Not strong enough, though. Once online, I made a few test Skype calls, but the quality was awful. I could barely understand what my wife was saying, which did not bode well for an hour-long podcast recording the next day. The hotel’s reaction: “You can always come downstairs to the lounge and use the wired connections there.” That would be fine if all I needed to do was get online, but I carry a travel rig—a mixer, cables, a digital recorder—and I’d be talking into a microphone on a tripod for an hour in what should be an otherwise silent environment.
I had one last option. I pulled my Sprint network adapter—the 250U from Sierra Wireless—from my briefcase and jacked it into the laptop’s USB port. The 4G signal in Manhattan was strong, so once connected, I tried another Skype call.
It was flawless. The next morning, Neville and I recorded as usual without a single dropped vowel; the audio was crystal clear. (Unfortunately, the settings on my mixer were not, so the audio quality of episode 592 is not up to snuff, but that’s my fault, not Sprint’s.)
The WiFi situation I encountered is hardly unique to Club Quarters. The quality of hotel broadband is woeful. Some advertised as “high-speed” remind me of my days on a 28.8 dial-up modem; some are so bad they make me long for those days. But as 4G rolls out in more cities, its not a problem I’ll have to worry about.
I’ve always been happy with Sprint as my mobile carrier. Today I’m more than happy; I’m ecstatic. As for Club Quarters? The least you can do is provide accurate information when a customers calls, but offering kick-ass high-speed WiFi would make your hotels hugely more appealing than the competition, since few in your industry have taken seriously the increased need business travelers have for broadband.