Shaw begins trial of WiFi network in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver

Daniel Bader

December 7, 2011 8:14am


Shaw decided earlier this year not to pursue building a 3G network in Western Canada, likely due to prohibitively expensive upfront infrastructure costs. Instead, they went with a ubiquitous WiFi network that will allow users to make phone calls over VOIP services like Skype or Tango, but will mainly be used by existing Shaw customers in high-density areas like malls and restaurants for data-only activities.

The limited rollout — currently small areas of Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver — will hopefully keep mobile phone users from defecting in large numbers to Telus, Bell or Rogers for their smartphone needs, since the high-speed WiFi hotspots will have unlimited data.

Coverage is going to expand over time to hundreds, and eventually thousands, of hotspots throughout Western Canada over the next three years. Whether it will have an effect on the incumbent wireless carriers remains to be seen, but it appears the WiFi rollout is a defensive move against Telus’ impressive Optik IPTV offering.

Source: Financial Post

  • Mark

    I really wonder what the costs are to build a city wide wifi network as opposed to a city wide cellular network. I imagine with wifi you really wouldn’t be able to blanket an entire city.

    I dunno, I really don’t see WiFi as a technology feasible for trying to create large coverage. If Shaw had instead decided to build an HSPA+ or LTE network and maybe just start in one city it could have been interesting. Even treating it as a data only network for voip + internet use and break off the current model that cellular carriers use could have been cool.

  • MKIV_wolf

    @Mark – cellular towers can run easily >$250k each, so wi-fi is likely the lower cost option. Especially when you consider that a cable co. can deploy wireless access points (WAPs) on their nodes already deployed all across the city. Coverage should actually be better with wi-fi given there are more enhanced equipment offerings for providing coverage inside buildings. Cellular is getting better (inside buildings and elevators), but wi-fi still has an edge.

    I’m not sure about the Financial Post’s comments about this being Shaw’s defensive move against Optik. Unless Shaw plans to enhance the actual content provided, it would seem that this wi-fi move strengthens their internet provider position more than a video one. The lines get fairly blurry though between service verticals, so who knows…

  • Rich

    The WiFi ventures sounds incredibly promising as data fees are currently outrageous on the big 3, and they’re honestly not that fast either.
    Additionally, opting to use WiFi instead of 3G or “4G” data will likely improve the battery life of your devices.

    We’ll see how it goes

  • KnightFire

    I… just don’t get it… WHY roll out a “city wide” WiFi network?
    What if I’m on the road between Calgary and Edmonchuck?

    If I’m running close to my 3G data limit when I’m on the go, I just pop into a Micky D’s for “free” WiFi.

    • hurrdurr

      “What if im on the road between cowtown and edmonton”

      youre probaly driving a vehicle

  • abc123

    Just imagine if this works and is seamless across the city… any smartphone from any provider will work because they all have wifi chips built into them.

    No handset compatibility problems.

    But I don’t hold too much hope for Shaw. When I cancelled my cable with them, they specifically said “We do not compete on price”.

    Not too promising.

  • Robert Joseph

    Shaw is a winner here. Everybody has an internet plan at home. To be able to use it anywhere is super. I suggest to get the cheapest mobile phone, with the cheapest plan for local calls. Then, buy a WiFi only phone or tablet, without a plan to make use of the network. You can Skype all over with WiFi, without a plan, without roaming charges! The big 3s are better be careful!

  • Robert Joseph

    Another issue. Verizon in the US, is blocking Google fron using its NFT for payment, because they deal with Apple. With WiFi, you can by pass these guys, who just want to dictate what hardware you buy, and which software you can use. I am sold on WiFi.

  • SK8RCHILD

    Yeah, I am not sure if this is defensive to Telus at all. I switched over to Telus recently and have founf that their customer service has improved quite a bit since my last account with them over 5 years back. at the same time Shaw’s customer service has completly fallen apart. I was a proud Shaw customer at one time. The service that Telus provides to my home is much better than Shaw’s. the price is better, the picture is better, the capabilites are better, and dealing with customer service has been a pleasure. With Shaw, they needed to come out once every 3 months to my house to exchange their products, they were constantly trying to tell me it was for other reasons such as my tv, my computer, my phone, and upon cancelling my service, they did not care. Free wi-fi at a few spots in the city will not help Shaw’s reputation at this point, they have a long way to go. I can see the big 3’s solution being very simple… cut back rates to keep customers, loose a bit of revenue, but still make some money. Not only that, but what will Shaw’s answer be when the big 3 do the same?

    • abc123

      I’m seeing this everywhere on the internet. Do people not know the difference between “lose” vs “loose”? Is it some kind of auto-correct to replace “lose” with “loose”… please enlighten me…

  • Robert Joseph

    I have Videotron in Quebec, and sure hope they follow Shaw. Our home service is super, and we never approached the quotas. I am an avid Skype user, and call all over the world for free. I do not believe in eating Mc something at 5 dollars to save on a Skype call. There is definitely a future in WiFi.

    • KnightFire

      Actually you don’t have to order anything at McD’s to use the free WiFi – but come on, who doesn’t like those beef squeezings in the fries :-)

  • KnightFire

    @hurrdurr that’s exactly my point, what good does WiFi do me when I’m on the road? Especially between Cowtown and Edmonchuck.

  • Jake

    Now that’s progress. Data only is the trend. I don’t need no stinking “minutes”. Just VOIP everywhere. Robbers and the other “big 3’s” will be crying. More competition please.

  • Mike

    Telus already has hotspots. The real knock-out will be when Telus starts bundling cellphone, home phone, internet, TV.

  • ghurley

    What are they going to do with their spectrum?

    • Seorang

      May I simply say such a rleeif to search out anyone who essentially realizes what they are discussing on the web. You definitely realize how to bring a difficulty to light and make it necessary. Even more people need to read this and understand it section of the story. I cannot believe you’re not more popular as you really have the gift.

  • firzen_net

    I just got a HD box and I still haven’t been able to get it working. They’re sending a technician on the 20th = =. It’s a brand new box and the guy said its defective. Customer service makes me hold for always an hour and sometimes cuts me off. Then I have to be on hold again. The only great thing when I switched to Shaw was the increased internet speed compared to Telus.

  • goo

    “will hopefully keep mobile phone users from defecting in large numbers to Telus, Bell or Rogers for their smartphone needs”
    what a joke. In order to use Shaw’s WiFi access points with a smartphone you must already have one from WIND, Telus, Bell, or Rogers. So how is this “keeping users from defecting”? Whomever wrote this news piece didn’t think that statement through carefully enough. And I wonder if Shaw will let just anybody use WiFi? What if you don’t have an account with Shaw? If WiFi access points are so easy and cheap, compared to cell towers, then I’m sure the big three are already planning their installations for their existing accounts, when they must.

  • Jean B.

    A few points on this that seem to have been missed. Forgetting for a moment that Shaw has already invested in specturm, the cost of building a cellular network is the cost of the infrastructure and the cost of the spectrum. Both have to be renewed regularly which makes mobile network a capital intensive business. Let’s not forget that the last auction in Canada cost several billions to new entrants and legacy operators some of which sat on the spectrum. So, building a network, specifically in a combination low population density-large required coverage area, is expensive. What do you get for a billion of infrastrcture and spectrum? MOBILITY. WiFi can not manage mobility. Comparing WiFi coverage to Cellular coverage is like comparing a few grains of sand and a beach. The bet here is that people are and will remain interested in paying an additional coat for mobility. It seems logical that this will continue and the economics will remain. If a large enough group of customers do not care about mobility and accept motility (limited mobility) or are willing to delay consumption, WiFi may be acceptable. In my mind, mobility is always a requiste.

  • Graham

    While technology moves forward, one can ony hope that Shaw will address the wifi coverage in the semi-rural areas where they have not addressed landlines!
    Signed ***a loyally customer with virtually no access*

  • Matt E.

    i dont know about u guys but i dont see shaw wifi i only see “westnet city wifi” in calgary ?