In this Q&A, Hotel News Now spoke with Choice Hotels International’s Chief Technology Officer Brian Kirkland to find out how the company is preparing for the rollout of 5G.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Many industries are awaiting the rollout of fifth-generation Internet, or 5G, and some believe it will change the way guests connect to devices at hotels.
Choice Hotels International is one company that believes 5G could change guest expectations, and the company is starting to think about how to leverage this technology, Brian Kirkland, chief technology officer at Choice, told HNN in an email Q&A.
Read below to find out more about the company’s thoughts on 5G.
HNN: 5G is expected to change the way people connect online—how is Choice thinking about this in terms of on-property connections?
Kirkland: “5G is poised to change guest expectations at hotels, including how data is used. Travelers will also expect internet performance to mirror their at-home experience. For example, guests may no longer want basic cable in their rooms and prefer content from their own streaming service accounts (Netflix, Prime, Disney, Hulu, etc). Ultimately, 5G will support a seamless ‘at-home’ experience even when traveling.
“It’s not only about internet connections for guests. As the Internet of Things continues to expand and leverage the 5G bandwidth capabilities, Choice’s ability to provide real-time and personalized experiences to guests, and support an efficient operating model for hotel owners, will increase. For example, 5G enhancements will give us access to real-time guest arrival times, stay patterns and on-property preferences. It will transform the way that the lodging industry operates.”
HNN: A lot of hotels are investing in technology and bandwidth to have fast Wi-Fi connections on property—could some of these investments become obsolete once 5G is available?
Kirkland: “5G is an additional mechanism for hotels to get high-speed internet to their location, especially in scenarios where normal trenching and cabling is not cost effective. Guests will always expect high-speed Wi-Fi connections at hotels, and the introduction of 5G is going to accelerate their demand and usage of a Wi-Fi network that matches the 5G experience.
“There are also some 5G limitations and challenges with connectivity through walls and in high-rise buildings, which is another reason Wi-Fi will continue to be required.”
HNN: How is Choice preparing properties for 5G connectivity?
Kirkland: “Choice is not mandating any requirements relating to 5G for our hotel owners at this time. We are working with our existing vendors to ensure they are doing the work necessary to be 5G ready, so that our hotels can leverage these capabilities at the right time.”
HNN: It was mentioned during an executive roundtable at the Choice convention that the company is moving things over to the cloud to prepare for 5G—can you talk more about that?
Kirkland: “Choice Hotels was the first in the industry to offer our hotels a cloud-based property management system in 2005, and continue to be at the forefront of many trends. As a result, we’re perfectly positioned to lead the way on new ones, like leveraging 5G connectivity and machine learning, both of which we’re actively pursuing. For example, our recent initiative to move legacy systems to the cloud enables us to take advantage of everything the cloud has to offer, and be ready for where digital trends are taking our guests, our industry and technology overall. 5G is just one example of a technology on the horizon that is going to change guest expectations, and being in the cloud enables Choice to be an adopter of this technology.”
“Choice is constantly developing new technology in-house to keep us ahead of the industry and puts our franchisees in the best position to succeed, as well as pursuing innovative strategic relationships with best-in-class technology companies to further drive our owners’ bottom line.”
HNN: From your perspective, what do hoteliers need to know about 5G that they might not be aware of?
Kirkland: “5G is not completely ready yet and some locations could be years away, but it is coming. 5G may open up additional avenues to bring high-speed data access to hotels and guests, if high-speed internet is not available in the area.
“When 5G becomes widely available, the expectations guests have for digital and wireless capabilities will be significantly higher than today. 5G will not replace Wi-Fi entirely, but will more likely increase the Wi-Fi performance expectations guests have.”