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Magic Kingdom Rolls Out Free WiFi, Other Parks Coming Soon

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Free guest WiFi was rolled out with no formal announcement at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom park yesterday. Guests who connected to the "Disney-Guest" network and accepted Disney's terms of service were able to freely utilize the Internet using the service. While Disney has not responded to an inquiry regarding the details of the service, MousePlanet was provided with a statement that "WiFi is on scheduled [sic] to be rolled out for all of our theme parks and DTD by early 2013." Free WiFi was recently rolled out at all resorts without fanfare, as well.

One thing to keep an eye on is whether Disney has actually been able to build out a network that will handle traffic from tens of thousands of guests in each park and still provide sufficient bandwidth that it's not swamped, resulting in insufficient bandwidth per user. That's likely the scenario already effecting Internet connectivity in the parks through cellular service providers. Disney will need a huge amount of bandwidth to accommodate its ultimate purposes here. If they've been able to accomplish that with this service, it could potentially reap a number of benefits for both guests and Disney:

Staying in the parks

Many guests are only able to visit Walt Disney World on the condition that they stay in touch with work or home, whether due to business requirements or family issues. With the notoriously bad cellular signal in the parks, it was difficult for guests to get to the Internet through their standard data plan, forcing those who need to stay in contact with home or work to leave the park periodically to access their email. With the WiFi service in place, guests should be able to stay in touch anywhere.

Social networking/free advertising

Many people today can't live without their Internet connection. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media become a way of life, and they're used to posting pictures and comments from everywhere. As noted above, the Internet connectivity in the parks (especially Magic Kingdom) is spotty at best. To give their guests the ability to post photos and more from the parks will both increase guest satisfaction and also provide free advertising, as live-tweeting or posting photos to Facebook as you travel around the park provides many more opportunities for others to see images of the parks and to hear of magical experiences. If a cast member makes a magical memory for a social media-connected guest, you can bet that all of their Twitter followers and Facebook friends will hear about it immediately.

Those are good reasons to add free Wifi, but there are really a couple of bigger reasons behind it, and they're on the way.

My Disney Experience

With the poor connectivity inside the parks, use of the Disney Mobile Magic app has been extremely difficult at times, especially for those not on Disney partner Verizon's network. Improved Internet access would make it much easier to use the app. That's important, because it'll soon be time to move up.

Word emerged a couple of days ago that a new mobile application called My Disney Experience will soon (as in possibly this month) be replacing the Mobile Magic app. The new app would supposedly include all of the current Mobile Magic functionality, plus have additional capabilities that will allow it to better integrate with Next Generation initiatives such as...

FastPass+

Walt Disney World ran a test of the FastPass+ system back in May. In that test, park guests selected a number of attractions in advance for which they received a set of virtual Fastpass tickets attached to an RFID card. They also received a list of times for which they could use the virtual Fastpass tickets. The new version will likely include smartphones and other mobile devices via the My Disney Experience app. With Disney resort room keys migrating to RFID cards (hold them up to the door, no need to insert anything) and so many packages that include tickets being sold, park passes attached to the RFID room cards will likely also be used. It's uncertain whether it would be possible for a guest to use both their room card and their smartphone to get additional FastPass+ return times.

Shrouded kiosks resembling the RFID scanning stations used in the last test have been appearing in the Magic Kingdom. The wraps may come off of those stations at the same time that My Disney Experience brings online FastPass+ to mobile devices.

With that, the Disney Next Generation experience will be one step closer to allowing you to make FastPass reservations for your entire trip before you leave your house.

What do you think? Will the Next Gen FastPass+ reservations system be a valuable tool for helping to plan out and schedule your Walt Disney World visit, or will it be another step toward removing spontaneity and fun from your trip? Good, bad, or both? Do you like the idea of improved WiFi connectivity in the parks, or would you prefer to be disconnected while enjoying your Disney experience? Voice your opinion in the comments below!

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Comments

  1. Burnt Toast's Avatar
    My Disney Experience was released yesterday for iOS and later this month for Android users. Enjoy!
  2. Burnt Toast's Avatar
    ... oh yah, and be advised that My Disney Experience is still a "sneak peek", so your mileage my vary!
  3. stan4d_steph's Avatar
    I just downloaded the My Disney Experience app. Pretty slick! Lots of information on there.
  4. Mark Goldhaber's Avatar
    Looks pretty nice, though I have very little free space left on my iPod Touch so it keeps crashing. I'll have to free up some space to have some longer play times with it. Thanks, Burnt Toast!
  5. Just Believe's Avatar
    I personally feel that everyone's attention span is becoming too sporadic and people need to stop burying their heads in the Internet while at the parks. However, for the majority of people, I think it's a smart move on Disney's part and will pave the way for a whole new theme park experience