Today, Shaw Communications launched the trial of its Wi-Fi network for customers in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

Shaw said the hotspots in those cities included malls, restaurants and fitness facilities. In addition, hundreds of access points will be added in the coming months, with thousands of locations being activated across the Shaw footprint in the next three years. Shaw plans on officially offering its Wi-Fi service in the spring of next year.

CED previously reported in October that Shaw was starting Wi-Fi trials in its hometown of Calgary and in Edmonton.

"Canadians' use of smartphones and tablet devices has grown exponentially over the years, and, more than ever, consumers are relying on data to explore the Internet, connect with loved ones and enjoy entertainment," said Peter Bissonnette, president of Shaw Communications. "With Shaw Wi-Fi, customers will have access to their exceptional broadband Internet service beyond the home."

A list of Shaw's hotspot locations is available online. Users will be able to log in at a Wi-Fi location using their email address and password, and they can authenticate up to eight devices. Shaw said that customers will experience similar speeds as their home Internet service, which Dennis Steiger, Shaw's group vice president for engineering, previously said was one of the goals of the service.

"Our intent is to reflect the home experience out into the public community spaces," Steiger said. "During the trial phases, [the speed of Wi-Fi] will be wide open. Wi-Fi can support a couple hundred megabits in practice shared amongst a group of users that would typically be pretty small relative to what we put on a bandwidth like that today.

"We want to evolve that to a point where we would replicate the service you have bought from us, for your wired service at home, onto the Wi-Fi service. If you had a 100-meg service, we would replicate that in Wi-Fi. If you have a 5- or 10-meg service, we would replicate that in Wi-Fi."

Shaw announced in September that it was abandoning the build-out of its own LTE network in favor of a Wi-Fi offering for its subscribers in Western Canada. Among the factors that weighed in on Shaw's decision to go with Wi-Fi included increases in Wi-Fi's throughput (up to 1 Gbps in some iterations of 802.11), reliability and seamless handoff capability. Shaw picked Cisco as its vendor of choice for the Wi-Fi network build-outs.

Cable operators are leveraging large, outdoor Wi-Fi networks in order to offer their customers a mobile broadband service.