Shaw tests ultra-fast internet speeds

Cable provider Shaw Communications says it is testing ultra-fast broadband, with potential download speeds up to one gigabit per second.

Cable provider Shaw Communications says it is testing ultra-fast broadband, with potential download speeds up to one gigabit per second.

That speed is 10 times faster than the highest-end connections now available and more than 100 times faster than what many Canadians have.

"This is game-changing technology," Shaw president Peter Bissonnette said in a statement. "We are on the leading edge of change with this trial — bringing blazing speeds and new network capabilities that will give us a springboard for future possibilities."

The Calgary-based company said it expects to launch fibre-deployment tests in April.

Shaw currently offers download speeds up to 100 megabits per second in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. The service isn't cheap, though, costing $150 a month. In Japan, 160-megabit connections sell for around $60 a month while 120-megabit speeds can be had in parts of Europe for about $100.

Shaw's pricing is in line with that found in the United States. Both Canada and the United States have been criticized recently for a lack of competition in broadband, which has resulted in slower speeds and higher prices than those found in other parts of the world.

A recent international broadband study by Harvard University found that Canada ranked 22nd out of 30 countries after availability, speeds and pricing were accounted for. The United States fared better, placing 13th.

Open-access rules in Europe, Asia

The study found European and Asian countries have better broadband because governments have enacted open-access rules, which see internet providers share infrastructure. Canada and the United States have instead focused on promoting a so-called inter-modal system, where cable firms compete against phone companies. This has created a comfortable duopoly in both countries, the report said.

The U.S. government is in the midst of putting together a national broadband plan. Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski last week proposed the "100 Squared" initiative, which would see 100 million homes connected with 100-megabit connections by 2020. The plan, which is being taken to Congress, could see government getting involved in building some of the infrastructure.

Internet search giant Google also announced last week that it is building experimental networks that would bring one-gigabit speeds to several U.S. cities and towns. The company, which is frustrated by the lack of competition between U.S. broadband providers, said its plan is intended to show what can be done with ultra-fast speeds.

Foreign ownership restrictions prevent Google from attempting a similar plan in Canada.