Albertans and their neighbours in B.C. will be seeing a new mobile service available at their fingertips.
On Thursday, Shaw Communications announced the launch of Shaw Mobile, a new wireless service that will combine elements of its wireless and residential fibre networks as well as its WiFi hotspots.
“Shaw Mobile customers will get the most cost-effective wireless experience in Canada by taking full advantage of our Fast LTE and our WiFi service, powered by Shaw Fibre+,” Shaw’s executive chair and CEO Brad Shaw said.
“We are pleased to deliver what Canadians have wanted from their wireless carriers for years — innovation and technology that helps them save money without sacrificing connectivity.”
Shaw, which operates Western Canada’s largest cable TV network, competes primarily against Telus Corp. in Alberta and B.C. Both companies offer a variety of telecom services including home internet and video, wireless phone service and business telecommunications.
Shaw Mobile will operate alongside Shaw’s existing Freedom Mobile service, which competes with Telus, Rogers and Bell in B.C., Alberta and Ontario.
The three big national carriers — which collectively have about 90 per cent of the country’s wireless market — each have three separate wireless brands, with Freedom mostly up against Telus’s Koodo, Rogers’s Fido and Bell’s Virgin.
Officials said Shaw Mobile was created to feed the need of Canadians and the increasing trend of using WiFi rather than cellular data on their smartphones.
It will offer three levels of service plan, currently at an introductory price discount, all with access to more than 450,000 Shaw Go WiFi hotspots in Western Canada.
The posted prices on Shaw Mobile’s website range between $15 and $95 per month, with a one-time $20 connection fee for each line, but are currently subject to promotional discounts. In addition, new and existing Shaw internet customers will be eligible for up to six free lines.
“By leveraging WiFi powered by Shaw’s Fibre+ network rather than LTE data, many Shaw Mobile customers can realistically eliminate much of their monthly wireless data expense,” Shaw said.
The mid-range Shaw Mobile service plan has a regular posted price of $85 per month ($45 with the launch discount) that includes 25 gigabytes of data at full speed. There are a number of conditions attached that may affect customer decisions.
All three level of service include unlimited calls to Canada, as well as unlimited incoming calls, text, pictures and video messaging. The lowest-price plan charges extra for data in $10 increments.
“It’s 2020 and Canadians expect to be connected all the time wherever they are. With Shaw Mobile, that doesn’t have to mean large wireless data charges,” Shaw said.
The timing is also vital for residents, as Canadians face economic hardships in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials said this new service hopes to offer financial stress relief for customers during these challenging times.
“Through the course of the last number of months during the pandemic, particularly in western Canada, there are hundreds of thousands of people that are unemployed,” president of Shaw Communications Paul McAleese said. “And anything we can do to help relieve that stress, we hope will be well received.
“We think we can really help Canadian consumers, so we’re enormously proud of the timing of this.”
Canada’s minister of innovation, science and industry, Navdeep Bains, said telecom services like Shaw are vital during these times as more and more Canadians begin to rely on an internet connection for their work, home and schooling.
“Now more than ever, Canadians rely on these services for work, school, finances and health care,” Bains said.
“That’s why the Government has introduced a number of important measures to make wireless services more affordable, and we’re continuing to build on the progress we’ve made to promote competition and further reduce prices.”
Tanya Fir, Alberta’s minister of economic development, trade and tourism, added that advancements in telecommunication services will help the province in several ways.
“Expanding our wireless infrastructure will enable economic development, spur job creation, and help get Albertans back to work,” Fir said.
“Part of our economic recovery plan includes developing plans to support the fastest, most secure use of technology and data by Albertans and today’s announcement is a great step in that direction.”
Open Media, a registered non-profit organization who advocates from open and affordable internet access, also commended Shaw’s new service.
“Canada is notorious for having some of the highest Internet prices in the world. So any new plans and offerings are a positive step forward for Canadians who have been suffering from unaffordable cellphone plans for far too long,” executive Director Laura Tribe said.
However, Tribe added the service won’t solve all Canadians problems in accessing affordable internet.
“This is not going to be a solution for everyone,” she said. “It may be a long time before we see the systemic change needed across the country to bring more choice and variety of services and plans, to ensure Canadians are able to access the communications services they need — especially during the current economic crisis, where digital connectivity is more critical than ever.”
Twelve new Shaw Mobile retail stores will be opening across Alberta and B.C. in the coming weeks. There are currently already 120 Shaw locations across the two provinces.
Officials said there’s no plan in the works yet to expand the service outside of Alberta and B.C.
Shaw was a late entrant into the mobile phone business in 2016, when it acquired the formerly independent Wind Mobile and its existing network in parts of Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia — three of Canada’s most populated provinces.
Prior to the Wind acquisition, Shaw had decided against making the heavy investments required to set up its own mobile network, which requires spectrum licences that are auctioned periodically by the federal government. Instead, it focused on building an extensive network of WiFi hotspots in public places.
WiFi communications don’t require federal licences, making it an affordable way for smartphone users to connect with their residential internet service or to outside WiFi services offered by retailers, libraries and telecom companies.
— With files from David Paddon, The Canadian Press