Independence Day 2018 July 4 Fireworks

Why Disney is Spending Millions for Free Wi-Fi in Theme Parks

Have you ever been watching one of my Facebook Live videos and all of a sudden the connection was lost? Have you ever tried to make your own social media or post a photo and Disney World’s Wi-Fi is overloaded and you just can’t do it?

Years ago, Wi-Fi in Disney World was a bit spotty. Recently, it’s gotten better so it works well most of the time.  However, in today’s ever connected world, guests are using more more bandwidth and expecting always-on connections.

Some places in the parks are better than others – with the inside of some show buildings being the worst offenders. However, Disney needs to make sure that the entirety of their parks provides sufficient Wi-Fi to stay connected without interruption.

The Cost

All this connectivity comes at a cost.

Many theme parks and popular destinations have already started to upgrade their Wi-Fi. While the parks won’t say how much they’re spending, LAX reportedly spent $1.5 million to increase their speeds.

It’s not hard to rack up big equipment bills considering that access points with enough signal boost to supply up to 500 people with high speed wireless connections can cost around $3,000.

Estimates say that Magic Kingdom can hold up to 100,000 people at full capacity. That means they would need at up to 200 access points. At $3,000 each, that would be up to $600,000 just for Magic Kingdom.

All told, the theme parks in Disney World can hold about 330,000 people with every park at capacity (which happens rarely, but can happen). That would mean no fewer than 660 access points totaling nearly two million dollars. This doesn’t even include any of the Disney Resort Hotels or the water parks.

At capacity, the parks alone can hold more than 300,000 people, which means at least two million dollars to upgrade Disney's World's Wi-Fi to industry standards.
At capacity, the parks alone can hold more than 300,000 people, which means at up to two million dollars to provide blanket Wi-Fi coverage.

Keeping Guests Happy

That is a lot of money, but if it means they keep their guests happy, it’s probably worth the cost.

It’s safe to assume that most guests visiting Disney World these days will have a smart phone, but it’s unlikely that they’ll all have unlimited data. While they could use their own carrier’s cell signal, visiting apps like MyDisneyExperience, Lyft, and Play Disney Parks can use up a lot of valuable data. This isn’t to mention the selfies, pictures, and videos they post and upload to social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.

An investment in Wi-Fi keeps also guests entertained while waiting in lines. MyDisneyExperience can tell us wait times for our favorite attractions, menus, what Advanced Dining Reservations are open, and how to get to where they want to go next. However, none of this is possible without Wi-Fi!

Promoting the Parks

On the other side of things, the theme parks really count on guests connecting to Wi-Fi for a variety of other reasons.

First, when you sign on to a public Wi-Fi, you are most likely asked to agree to some terms. You probably just click “agree” and move on with what you were trying to do, but Wi-Fi providers can use your connection to collect some very valuable information. They create a personal profile of you, which they couldn’t get any other way except for a face to face interview, and they can use this profile for marketing purposes. At this point, they can collect your IP address, browsing activity, keystroke activity, the webpages you visit, and location information.

Once they have this information, they can use the data to study traffic patterns and marketing opportunities.

While all of this is pretty intrusive, it’s probably more annoying than harmful. Fortunately, they also use this information to catch bad guys who might violate their policies or in some way do something illegal.

Finally, if guests lack a Wi-Fi connection, the parks are losing big financial opportunities. Every time you post a picture of a beautiful fireworks show atop Cinderella Castle or that time you met Mickey Mouse, you are promoting Disney’s brand, and they like that. If you can’t connect to Wi-Fi, Disney is losing out on a lot of free marketing!

Disney World Wi-Fi:  Works well, or needs improvement?