For many years, hoteliers engaged in the “thread count” war, where providing sheets with the highest thread count was a sign of luxury.  While offering comfortable sleeping arrangements is important, there is a new war that is being waged and should surely trump thread count: bandwidth.

A main driver for this is the simple fact that guests are no longer hitting the “pay” button on their TV remote controls.  A recent USA Today survey found that 81 percent of guests no longer order pay-per-view movies. Today’s guests prefer to access content through their laptops or mobile devices, which is creating an increased demand for bandwidth.

Guest surveys are also showing that spotty Internet service is near the top of the list when it comes to customer complaints. Fast Internet is no longer considered a luxury – it’s a necessity – and it can impact the bottom line of a hotel.

Hotel technologies are evolving at a mind-numbly rapid pace.  A little more than a decade ago, hotels installed their first networks so guests could send and receive email. If you rewind back to five years ago, the iPad did not even exist.

That is why hoteliers need to make bandwidth a priority for their meeting rooms, public spaces and guestrooms.  Although hoteliers are often thinking about replacing things such as carpets, mattresses and paint every decade, the cycle to upgrade technology is clearly much shorter if a hotelier wants to meet the demands of the next-generation traveler.

In addition, hotels often offer a group a rate, for example $200.00, for supplying bandwidth for the conference space. If the group decides they don’t need the bandwidth, the hotel still ultimately pays for the unused capacity.  With bandwidth being a vanishing commodity, the hotel would be better off studying how many groups opt in or opt out, and then adjusting pricing down to increase utilization and group ratings.

Entrepreneur Magazine recently named Hampton Inn as a “Top Hotel Brand,” with a core part of the recognition focusing on the consistent connectivity and placing outlets in spots where you can actually use them.  Simple solutions that can go a long way in the minds of travelers, but they also ensure guest loyalty. However, to accomplish this, hotels must reinvest in their networks on an annual basis to insure that they are meeting guest expectations.

The Internet is now ingrained in our culture – more users, more devices and more demand all equal more bandwidth. But even if you offer free Wi-Fi to your guests, if it is slow, guests will not be satisfied. Hotels need to have the right technology in place to make sure they don’t lose revenue over spotty connectivity.  And, as we have seen, the shift of guests accessing content through their own devices will only increase.