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 @shaw.ca 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 @shaw.ca 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.