Disney Dials Up More Than Just Better Reception With AT&T Deal

Faster wireless networks inside Disney's parks will enable it to push its mobile apps and increase guest spending


Disney wants more smartphones to work inside its theme parks as the company looks to offer guests more services through mobile devices — especially during peak hours.

In a new multiyear alliance agreement, Disney has made AT&T its official wireless service provider at its theme parks in California and Florida and its Disney Cruise line. AT&T replaces a previous deal with Verizon Wireless that had ended and was not renewed.

As part of that deal, AT&T will participate in various marketing and branding opportunities, including sponsoring Disney’s soccer and run Disney events at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Employees at Disney’s theme parks will use mobile devices on AT&T’s network, and Disney will collaborate with AT&T to enhance the experience for theme park guests who turn to their smartphones and tablets during visits. Disney also joins AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign to educate consumers on the dangers of texting while driving.

In addition to the alliance agreement, AT&T will also bolster cell phone reception by adding more than 25 antenna systems and 350 small cell towers to increase capacity. The towers will enable Disney to redistribute signals to provide more coverage in high-volume areas. An additional 10 cell sites will provide mobile services to guests across Walt Disney World.

AT&T won’t be alone in offering upgraded wireless services at Disney’s parks, with other carriers also making enhancements to their coverage at the properties, according to sources.

Last summer, Disney launched “My Disney Experience” as a free mobile app that gives guests at Walt Disney World access to park hours and maps, wait times for attractions, dining and attraction information. “My Disney Experience” was designed separately from the existing “Mobile Magic” app that can be used to navigate Disney’s parks in California and Florida.

Disney is counting on usage of the apps, and new offerings like MagicBands, MyMagic+ and FastPass+ to improve wait times and traffic flow at its parks to make visits more appealing to guests — and help increase spending, as a result.

It will also expand the exposure of guest visits, as well, with more photos of park visits expected to flood Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

With more consumers carrying smartphones that require access to high-speed cell networks, Disney has been making moves to upgrade its wireless networks available at its parks. AT&T’s 4G LTE network is considered one of the fastest mobile networks in America. It aims to cover 300 million people with 4G LTE service by the end of 2014.

Upgrades were needed, given that reception has often been poor, or nonexistent at Disney’s parks, especially as attendance increased throughout the day.