October 02, 2006, 14:00 BST
The Good Hotel Guide 2007 has named and shamed hotels that charge the earth for Wi-Fi access, but analysts suggest they may still be good value compared with mobile data roaming charges
Hotel Wi-Fi pricing has come in for a bashing in the latest edition of The Good Hotel Guide.
The 2007 edition of the Guide points out that some UK hotels charge as much as £5 an hour despite the low running costs of a Wi-Fi network — a Cambridge hotel is even identified as charging their guests £20 for one day's access.
Wi-Fi access has increasingly become free in US hotels, the guide notes, but analyst Ian Fogg, of Jupiter Research, believes the comparison is not necessarily accurate.
"When you're rolling out Wi-Fi, it depends on the construction of the hotel and American buildings are very different," Fogg told ZDNet UK on Monday, adding that it was "not as simple to roll out Wi-Fi access [in a hotel] as many people think — to offer a good signal in every bedroom is very challenging".
Fogg suggested that the first step towards tackling hotel Wi-Fi pricing in the UK should be transparency, as it is "not sufficiently clear when booking a hotel what type of broadband is available, what price it is — they normally just say 'Internet available'".
This problem was particularly prevalent for business travellers who visit multiple locations, as they would have little opportunity to discover hotels with cheap or free Wi-Fi.
Fogg also claimed that hotel Wi-Fi access is perceived as expensive when compared to home or office access, but often fared well in relation to the exorbitant roaming rates charged by operators for mobile data services.
He added that a key factor was "whether [Wi-Fi access] remains an additional charge" or gets absorbed into the overall room rate, and suggested that hotels may increasingly seek to differentiate themselves from the competition by advertising "free" Wi-Fi, as often happens in the US.