Room With A View And VoIP

Anybody who travels frequently, for either business or pleasure, has probably been burned more than once by outrageous charges for the use of the innocent-looking phone in their room. I’ve been nicked by mandatory charges for phone service even if you don’t use the phone, and absurd charges such as $1 for local phone calls.

Put another way, the phone has become a profit center for many hotels. These days, with the availability of virtual switchboards, many hotels have converted to VoIP – but their charges haven’t been lowered to reflect the radically lower cost of VoIP service. In other words, hotels are simply adding the cost savings represented by VoIP to their profit margin.

The same can be said of many hotels’ broadband services, both wired and wireless. A Wi-Fi fee of $10 a night isn’t unusual, nor is twice that. I’ve even been charged $10 nightly for service that I’ve measured at less than 1 Mb/s. And I’m quite sure that the hotel isn’t paying $300 a month (i.e. $10 daily for 30 days), for that service.

Curiously, the way the hotel business works, the more expensive the hotel room, the more likely the hotel is to levy those high phone and broadband charges. Indeed free Wi-Fi is most common in moderately priced hotels. Free VoIP calls, particularly long distance and international calls, remain virtually unheard of in the hotel business.

Thus I was more than slightly pleased to come across a press release from Hong Kong’s Peninsula hotel, reputed to be one of the finest hostelries in the world (and at room rates that start at $565 one of the priciest), saying that guests would receive free VoIP and broadband, as part of a massive new package of guest room technology. And guests won’t be nickelled and dimed with charges for every call, every data bit, or even for HD movies.

“Complimentary high-speed wired and wireless Internet access also means that international VOIP calls are free, both in-room and when travelling in the hotel’s Rolls-Royce fleet,” the hotel says.

Perhaps I’m being naïve to think that many hotels will imitate the Peninsula, but it would be nice.