Shaw's planned Wi-Fi rollout still in trial phase

Canadian cable TV operator Shaw Communications' regional Wi-Fi network is still in the trial phase before being rolled out to all of its customers.

Calgary-based Shaw, the dominant cable company in Western Canada, deployed residential Wi-Fi in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton to customers with Shaw email addresses but has not rolled out the service any further, despite earlier pronouncements that the service would be available to all of the company's residential customers this spring.

CED magazine reports that the company continues to learn lessons from its initial deployments but still hopes for a broader Wi-Fi rollout later this year. "It's unlicensed spectrum, which makes things more interesting sometimes. It's really a new world for a lot of people, and an exciting one," Darcy Birkbeck, senior director of Shaw's engineering operations team, told CED.

During Shaw's second-quarter conference call last week, CEO Brad Shaw said the company is focused on scaling the network through fiscal 2012 and 2013. "As a technology, Wi-Fi is gathering a lot of attention regarding its role within the broadband and wireless ecosystems. We believe it will further differentiate our broadband experience and increase the value proposition of our Internet services," said Shaw, according to the Seeking Alpha transcript of the call.

"I also want to reaffirm that based on the government's announcement on March 14 regarding the 700 MHz auction, we continue to view the economics of the traditional wireless network as unattractive and have no intention of building such infrastructure," he added.

The residential Wi-Fi plan is part of Shaw's Exo rebranding program, which covers high-definition television, on-demand programming, high-speed Internet via fiber-to-the-premises and advanced telephone capabilities. The company dumped plans for a regional LTE network last September in favor of building out a Wi-Fi network supplied by Cisco Systems. Shaw's model for its residential Wi-Fi network is Cablevision, which has deployed Wi-Fi under its Optimum brand across the New York metropolitan area, as well as parts of New Jersey and in Bridgeport, Conn.

For more:
- see this CED article
- see this Seeking Alpha transcript

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