Comparing Hotel Wifi, 3G & 4G Net Access in Marietta GA

This week I find myself in the Atlanta area for a couple of days. To be specific, tonight I’m at the Crowne Plaza in Marietta GA. This hotel was booked by a co-worker on the basis of its proximity to my work site. He booked it at a discount through Priceline.com. It was good choice. It’s a nice hotel.

Like most of the upper-end hotel brands this facility was wired for internet access in the days when wifi was not ubiquitous. As such, there remains a wired internet connection in the rooms.

Reflecting more current trends there’s pervasive wifi as well. In a remarkable twist, both are offered free of charge. It has been my experience that many of the more up-market hotel brands still charge a nightly fee for internet access.

However, free is not such a bargain if the service is unreliable. Sadly, that seems to be the case here. The wifi itself connects quickly but the captive portal and login processor are terribly slow.

The wired access also requires a trip through the captive portal for access approval. That was abysmally slow. I waited about 5 minutes for it to respond. I suspect that few people use the wired access anymore so perhaps some of the related gear needed to wake up and shake the dust loose when I connected.

True to my habit I’m carrying the now 18 month old Sprint 3G Mifi. But I’m also carrying the new T-Mobile G2 with it’s new hotspot & tethering capable firmware. This seems to present a unique opportunity to compare wired access along side three different kinds of wireless access.

I have no way of knowing about the hotel’s networking infrastructure so the Linksys Wifi router pictured above is purely symbolic.

Hardwired access:

Hotel wireless access:

Sprint 3G Mifi:

T-Mobile G2 with Hotspot enabled (HSPA+)

While none of the methods of access can touch the Comcast Business Class service I have at home, T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network comes out on top by a fair margin. It’s curious that the hotel’s back-haul also uses Sprint, although the different distances reported suggest substantially different network paths.

As I come closer to the end of the Sprint service agreement I’ve been wondering if there’s merit in keeping the Mifi. The service has been robust, but at $60/mo it’s considerably more expensive than the $15/mo tethering/hotspot option I can add to my T-Mobile service.

I also wonder if T-Mobile’s shiny new HSPA+ network will seem so very speedy once HSPA+ capable devices are more common? Right now only the G2 and some USB stick interfaces take advantage of HSPA+ performance.

For the moment it seems like the win goes to T-mobile. Good technical performance, and good prices, combined with their typically great customer service ensures that they’ll have my business for the foreseeable future.

I’m glad I didn’t have to pay for the hotel’s internet access this time around.

I did notice one little curiosity as I was writing this post. When tethered to the G2 I could not connect to my employers legacy PPTP VPN. However, if I first established a a secure connection to my Witopia personal VPN I could then tunnel through that connection to the companies older VPN. Strange, but it works well enough.

  • thedude

    I wonder if all those moronic talking heads espousing the future of computing, being “in the cloud”, would change their tune if they too had to suffer through these abysmal speeds of hotel internet.

  • Yeah, right. Let’s imagine me an iPhone use. How much FaceTime would I be getting with upload speeds in the 100-300k range. Not much I suspect.

  • And here’s how the HSPA+ is measuring this afternoon.

    • Back in Houston this morning here’s my latest HSPA+ speed test: 3285 kbps / 1333 kbps!