Want Free WiFi, Conference Goers? Stay at a Cheap Hotel

That's the surprising finding of a new study by Hotel WiFi Test, which ranks Quality Inn—a bargain brand—as having better (and cheaper) wireless than many of its upmarket peers.

When it comes to WiFi, rethink everything you know about hotels.

Most upmarket hotels—think Marriott, Hilton, and Sheraton—have wireless access, but it is rarely free, and it’s not always fast. On the other hand, low-cost chains like Quality Inn, Ramada, and La Quinta almost always have free wireless access. And Quality Inn’s is generally faster than anything else.

That’s according to research by startup Hotel WiFi Test, which allows consumers to compare hotels’ wireless speeds.

The firm based its analysis on users who logged into the website to test hotels’ wireless speeds. Rather than basing the results on individual locations, the firm tried to focus on chains—or, for independent hotels, the overall trend. The firm then created a chart to show those trends:


“When data are plotted on a chart, it is easy to see that most hotel chains form a rather predictable cluster,” the firm wrote in a news release.

Noteworthy Insights

One clear finding from the research is that upmarket chains tend to charge for online access.

While Hilton had the third-fastest wireless of all major chains plotted by the firm, fewer than one-quarter allowed you to get online without a credit card. And while Marriott had decent speeds, topping 8 megabits per second, midmarket cousin Courtyard by Marriott’s wireless was slightly faster—and more likely to be free.

But while free wireless access is almost a sure thing at many lower-cost chains, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. For example, Extended Stay America, a nationwide chain of extended-stay hotels, has free WiFi at most of its locations, but it lingers around the 2 megabit range—slower than most consumer DSL lines.

If you’re looking for a good balance among cost, speed, and luxury, Hotel WiFi Test suggests independent hotels, around three-quarters of which offer free wireless averaging 10 megabits per second.

Ultimately, the study proves one thing, according to the firm.

“This cluster illustrates a fact well known to seasoned travelers: Hotel WiFi is usually free and slow,” the firm wrote.

Quality Inn, a budget chain, had the best WiFi of any national hotel chain. (iStock Editorial/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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