The Most Wanted New Theme Park Attraction? Bandwidth
Despite the new parade and shows celebrating its 60th anniversary, the Disneyland Resort is missing one major new attraction that it will need to make its future as successful as its past - bandwidth.
When park president Michael Colglazier welcomed fans to the park for its 60th birthday on Friday, thousands of those fans took out their cell phones to post photos and send tweets of the historic moment. And almost all of them faced the same result -- nothing happened. Crushed under the load of tens of thousands of simultaneous requests, the cellular data networks around the Disneyland Resort failed to deliver.
Data network speed test results at the Disneyland Resort on July 17, 2015.
It's become a running joke among Disneyland fans. When the park gets crowded, your connection gets dropped. While it's nice for old school fans to enjoy a return to the days when no one had cell phones or tablets in the park, so you couldn't do anything but read your guidemap, talk to the people around you and enjoy the park anyway, Disneyland's lack of bandwidth creates some real problems for the resort going forward.
Can you imagine the disaster if Disneyland tried to implement Walt Disney World's MyMagic+ system right now, with its current bandwidth capacity? It couldn't. With no public WiFi in the parks and a cell data network that collapses when park attendance swells past average loads, Disneyland guests simply wouldn't be able to access a "My Disney Experience"-type app to manage their Fastpass+ and restaurant reservations.
Of course, the Walt Disney World Resort had to upgrade its bandwidth capacity before rolling out MyMagic+. But even if Disneyland chooses not to bring that new vacation management system to California, it will need to upgrade data networks for its guests.
Whether you like it or not, life is lived online for a huge percentage of people these days. Texting, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter are part of the social experience of visiting Disneyland. Taking those away from visitors doesn't enhance their experience in the park, it annoys and frustrates them. We might enjoy dressing up like it's the 1950s, but few of us wish to go back to communicating that way again. (Pay phones? Are you kidding me?)
Smart themed entertainment designers will not fight social media but will embrace it and use it to create a more compelling and unique in-park experience. More than two thirds of theme park visitors surveyed by design group Thinkwell Group in 2013 said that they wanted to see better mobile integration in the parks. But designers can't create apps and experiences that reward in-park social media users if the park can't deliver the bandwidth to connect them.
How nice would it have been if Disneyland's guests on Friday didn't have to crowd around a handful of jumbo video screens the park had set up to allow them to watch the morning ceremony? What if they could have watched the event on the park's Periscope feed from wherever they were in the resort? Disneyland broadcast it, but almost no one could access the feed from inside the park... thanks to the crumbling data network. (The event was held in front of the castle, where the small, flat space of Disneyland's hub meant that only invited VIPs and a handful of local media representatives could see it in-person.)
The Orlando-area theme parks have worked to improve mobile data connectivity. Now, it's time for the Southern California parks to step up. Universal Studios Hollywood has introduced free WiFi in its park, but Disneyland's free public WiFi remains limited to its hotels. (And it falls apart on crowded days, too.) All parks need to offer a robust mix of free public Wifi and high-speed cellular data availability to meet the needs of their guests.
Yes, Disneyland fans want their Star Wars Land. Yes, we want new Marvel attractions, too. And more parking, and maybe a new hotel. But along with all of these planned and potential improvements for the Disneyland Resort, fans hope that Disney won't forget to take steps ensure a massive expansion of mobile data network capability for park guests, as well.
My family definitely shares your frustration. When we visit Disneyland, we can sometimes get a data connection to check email or look at the unofficial wait time apps, but forget about sharing a photo on Facebook or other social media. You almost have to go outside the parks to the Disney hotels to get a strong signal.
No, Spaceman, it was because the app didn't make any money so it got pulled. Third parties do it better anyway.
If you have to use your social media device in the park the theme park experience is already ruined. People should enjoy the parks and take some time out of their busy day of telling people what they're doing to stop telling people what they're doing and actually enjoy doing it.
In Disney's (or any other major theme park's) defense, their purpose is to give you a great experience. The carriers should be the ones stepping up their game. Go to any major sports venue or concert and you get the same result.
Beyond posting to Facebook or Twitter, a real benefit to having access to a strong WIFI network is being able to connect with members of your party or other friends who are also in the park.
The same problem goes for Universal Orlando. Whenever I try to send a text to one of my party members who had got separated, it sometimes takes at least 5 minutes for the text to go through. And trying to go online is next to impossible. Although I think everyone should do what NB's family apparently does and wait until the day is over before going on social media.
I really don't understand why the cell providers haven't boosted bandwidth in the area. Is Disney deliberately holding them back, or are they simply not interested? Stadiums and arenas have seen huge investments in increased bandwidth which is usually both investment by the venues themselves (usually in the form of WiFi) and investment from the communication companies. It's very surprising that neither Disney nor the telcoms have stepped up to increase service in an obviously underserved area.
I'm with NB on this one. I usually don't even use my phone until I'm back at the hotel. Seriously people are too obsessed with social media. I always laugh when I see people glued to their phones at the theme parks, completely missing the experience that's around them.
It goes without saying that many stadiums, arenas, amphitheaters, and public attractions all suffer from this same problem.
They should have wifi to alleviate cellular and vice versa.
"pick a time and a place to meet up later."
If your family has iPhones, just install the free Find My Friends app (it's an official Apple created app) and you can see where everyone is at on a map at any time.
Well to be fair, the Chicago stadiums do not do well with cell service either.
"Sorry, it doesn't work this way. This is so 20th century. We're at 21st century"
The long awaited Indiana Jones ride better come to Orlando.
"Besides, if I want to check CNN.com or Facebook while I'm at a park, who's business is it but my own?"
Nothing wrong with being a luddite, but if 90% of the public is using smartphones and you're not, you're disadvantaged. Disney theme parks moves along with the technology. Their theme parks are at the height of new entertainment with the latest in technological advances. Disney encourages the use of smartphones.
If I had to choose between having Fastpass+ or low bandwidth at Disneyland, I would choose low bandwidth. Every... single... time....
@Anon Mouse nailed it. The issue here is not that technology is preventing people from being in the moment with the experiences in the park, but rather that technology as it stands can make a great experience better when it works, or degrade an experience if it doesn't work.
Some people have a narrow view of why people use their smartphones at the parks. I need it to check my own contracting business email and for my full time job in IT. I don't have the luxury of having a backup that fills my IT role when I'm on vacation. I have to be reachable and I have to have access to corporate emails and if needed, remotely connect to servers if there are issues. I don't love having to do this while on vacation but I love that technology allows me to do these things if needed. I'm not on Facebook, I don't even have an account. But I need access to keep the job that is allowing me to pay for these vacations.
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