Wednesday 14 August 2013

Shaw Go WiFi Status in Sault Ste Marie

Judging by the number of times the network “Shaw Open” is showing up during WiFi network scans in Sault Ste Marie, it appears the roll-out of the Shaw WiFi network is going extremely well.

In September, 2011 Shaw announced it was cancelling its plans to enter the cell network marketplace. In its stead, they proposed a WiFi network based on backhaul connectivity through the company’s broadband network. In the industry this is known as mobile data off-loading where data that would normally transit a cellular radio network uses a fibre optic or other broadband network instead.  Recent studies show that the amount of off-loaded traffic is approaching 50% in some jurisdictions. This frees up valuable, and expensive, radio spectrum for more real-time applications such as voice. It also means a user does not need to use expensive cellular (mobile) plan megabytes to view data intensive apps like videos.

Shaw branded their product as Shaw Go WiFi.

The Shaw Go WiFi consists of a large number of WiFi hotspots located throughout an area covered by a Shaw cable plant. Shaw provides the hotspots free to all manner of businesses, offices, public buildings, etc. in the target area.  The ultimate goal is provide as complete coverage of a locale as possible. The system is network agile which means it has the capability to hand-off active connections between hotspots as long as they have an overlapping electronic footprint.   Sources inform me that the maps of the WiFi locations have about a two week lag period from the installation date until they show up on the map.

To access the system, a user needs to be a Shaw customer, have a email address and be registered through the Shaw Go WiFi website.  You can have more than one device registered. A device is a cellphone, tablet, laptop or any other hardware that can connect to a WiFi network. The number of devices a user can register varies from as few as three to as many as 10 depending on the level of Shaw Internet service you subscribe to. The details are available in the FAQ area on the website.  

The use of the network is free but data usage is charged against the data cap in the plan the device is registered under.

As noted, as of this point in time, you can only use the system if you have a account. If you live outside the Shaw Internet coverage are, you are out of luck. There are a couple of work arounds. One is to establish Shaw account within the nearest coverage area. This can get a bit pricey as the cheapest Internet price is $50.00, after the $30 introductory offer, for 125 GB of data. Another option is have a friend or relation register your device on their plan and either depend on their kindness to cover your data usage or offer to reimburse them based on your data usage. In the above example the cost for data is 40 cents per gigabyte.

There is little doubt that Shaw Go WiFi is an example of the direction mobile networks are moving as data uses increase exponentially and radio spectrum becomes harder to acquire and more expensive.   While the technology works very well in urban areas, it is less advantageous to rural areas that do not have the underlying backhaul infrastructure or population density.


  1. Thanks for the recent blog postings - very informative.

    RE: radio spectrum being more expensive:
    Shaw (WiFi) overage = $0.40 per GB
    TBayTel (4G) overage = $50.00 per GB.

    125x more expensive, from the consumer point of view....

    1. I agree with your comments on how expensive the cellular (mobile) solution to providing Internet access in rural and suburban areas is. This is the case unless a reasonable price structure or tariff is developed for areas where cellular (mobile) is the sole source for Internet access.

      However, I feel it is important to be fair and try to provide an apple to apple comparison of urban and rural prices even though it is next to impossible to get a meaningful result. (It is somewhat similar to comparing Internet prices between countries.)

      The basic Tbaytel price structure for data hub service starts at 5 GB for $45.00 or $9.00 per GB. Under their flex-rate plan model this increases to 10 GB for $60.00 or $6.00 per GB and finally to 20 GB for $75.00 or $3.75 per GB. Any usage over 20 GB is billed at $.01 per MB or $10.00 per GB. This price information is as posted on the Tbaytel website on 15 Aug 2013.

      The lowest cost Shaw Internet price structure provides 125 GB for $50.00 or 40 cents per GB. Under the Shaw Bump-up program, which is similar to the flex-rate plans of other vendors, if a user exceeds the 125 GB cap in a given billing period, the user is automatically bumped-up to the next data transfer cap level and billed at that higher rate for the period. The rate reverts to the original lower price schedule during the next billing period. In our example, usage in excess of 125 GB would result in the user being bumped-up to the next level of 200 GB and be charged $55.00 for that billing period. In effect, the user gets an additional 75 GB of data usage at a rate of 7 cents per extra GB. For the total billing period, the rate is 28 cents per GB. This price information is as posted on the Shaw website on 15 Aug 2013.

      Taking the price comparison to the extreme, the urban user can get 200 GB of data transfer for $55.00. Based on the Tbaytel model, which is the cheapest of the offerings in the Algoma District, a rural user would pay $1875.00 for the same amount of data usage. This provides a total rate of $9.38 per GB.

      [Calculation: - Basic Flex Plan price of $75.00 for 20 GB + (180 GB overage at a rate of $10 per GB = $1800) for a grand total of $1875.00. Also, don’t forget the HST of $230.75 for a grand total of $2105.75.]

      On the surface, the CRTC approved Deferral Account price structure proposed by Bell but not yet implemented or published as an offering on their website seems like a reasonable, albeit not perfect, compromise. That proposal provides 65 GB of data for around $55.00. The problem is, this rate structure only applies in Bell’s 100 or so Deferral Account areas. If you live outside their boundaries, the attitude seems to be pay up.

  2. Thanks for the clarification. My bad for not checking the latest info on the TBayTel website. I had promised to reconsider their service if they ever dropped the crazy overage fees ($50 / GB), and so it appears as if they have come down quite a bit in that regard. The comparative price for bulk data as you point out is still a jaw dropper, but TBayTel now appears to at least have the best rural offering in the area. I may have to reactivate my old account with them.