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Cell phone connection relief on the way for Disney World and Disneyland?

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Published: July 23, 2013 at 6:04 AM

Disney Parks today announced a deal to make AT&T the official wireless provider at the Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts.

The deal includes sponsorship of some runDisney and other sports events, but the element that should catch the attention of theme park fans (at least those with cell phones on the AT&T network) is that the telecom company will improve its transmission network at both resorts.

Tangled bathrooms
Better cell reception might make it worth your while to use the free electrical outlets near the Magic Kingdom's new Tangled restrooms.

According to the press release, here are the planned network enhancements, which should help guests now frustrated with poor cell and data reception during peak visiting times:

  • More than 25 distributed antenna systems to increase the wireless capacity in areas with high mobile traffic
  • More than 350 small cells to extend network connectivity
  • 10 cell sites across Walt Disney World Resort to provide wide-ranging mobile service to guests
  • More than 40 repeaters to further enhance the mobile experience for both guests and Cast Members
  • Other than the one mention of Disney World, there's no other word in the release as to what will go in which resort, or what the current infrastructure looks like. But, from personal experience as an AT&T customer at Disneyland, I've seen my connection speed drop to zero as crowds grow at the park. Free WiFi, available from the Grand Californian's network at Disneyland in selected locations at the WDW Resort, helps, but a more robust cell data network will make using Disney's apps and other online resources (did you know that ThemeParkInsider.com works pretty darned well on an iPhone?) easier for visitors.

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    Readers' Opinions

    From Tracy Bates on July 23, 2013 at 6:31 AM
    I'm more curious where the tangled section of the park is. Did that open with new fantasyland?

    How did I miss that?

    From 70.193.208.137 on July 23, 2013 at 6:53 AM
    @Tracy Bates - "Tangled Restroom & Recharge Zone" is located where old Skyway station near the Haunted Mansion used to stand.
    From Russell Meyer on July 23, 2013 at 8:12 AM
    It over next to Small World, which was where the old skyride station used to be. They finished it late last fall.

    We have not had issues in the past with cell phone/broadband access at Disney Parks, but rarely enter the parks on peak days. I did have some trouble last fall at USF during HHN, and we regularly have issues at most sporting events and concert venues. It seems that all cell phone providers should beef up their networks in areas where there can be large crowds (over 10k). However, it seems that Disney has now set a precident for property owners paying extra to increase broadband access. That means cell phone companies will expect similar deals to increase access at stadiums, arenas, and concert venues, and users will ultimately have to pay for that access through higher ticket prices or a tiered system for access.

    From David Eggert on July 23, 2013 at 8:12 AM
    Sounds like this should be good news for AT&T customers. As an international visitor, though, I'm still hoping for a significant expansion of free WiFi across the parks, since roaming data charges make it prohibitively expensive. With the MyMagic+/Fastpass+ seeming to rely heavily on guests having internet access at the parks, you'd think providing reliable access would be a no-brainer.
    From 141.117.27.104 on July 23, 2013 at 8:45 AM
    Yes to more wifi but more cell coverage is also great news. Have had zero bars at runDisney events (outside gates) making it hard to reunite with one's party among 15,000 participants and all their supporters. Good news Disney / AT&T.
    From Tyler Stover on July 23, 2013 at 9:19 AM
    My Verizon data connection drops to nothing in the parks too and I guess this won't help that. I find it rather easy to stay off the smartphone and enjoy the park itself while I'm at Disneyland of course, but sometimes you want to get that great photo I got of my kid meeting Mickey on Facebook or check out the Disney Parks app to get wait time estimates, and then a better connection would be handy.
    From Terri Pierce on July 23, 2013 at 11:48 AM
    So what about the Disney Parks app? I think I was most sad about losing this when I switched to AT&T!
    From Eric G on July 24, 2013 at 10:55 AM
    The Disney Parks app hasn't been exclusive to Verizon customers for sometime. It's available for iPhone and Android users. However, most of the awesome useful information is tied to your phone's location. If you're not in the parks then you can't access info like wait times, well unless you've hacked your phone like I have.
    From Teddy Gingerich on July 26, 2013 at 6:46 PM
    I have Verizon, and an Android phone, and have never had problems with connectivity at Disneyland. Calls, web access, apps - you name it. And I have no trouble getting info via MouseWait from my home area of Scottsdale, AZ. Wait times, FastPass return times, it's all there.

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