Telus vs. Shaw: Choosing the Right High Speed Internet Service in Calgary

Choosing an Internet Service Provider in Calgary can be tricky. We have many options to choose from, contracts and plans to review, and never ending limited time offers. In this article I am going to compare Telus and Shaw. If you are unable to get either provider, don’t worry I will be writing an article shortly that talks about Terago, Platinum, Persona, AdNet, Nucleus, and other small wireless ISPs in Calgary that may be able to serve you.

In this article I am going to address the following: The basic technology of how ADSL, Optik, and Cable (Docsis 2.0/Docsis 3.0) work, the advantages of Telus Internet in Calgary, the advantages of Shaw Internet in Calgary, contracts vs. no contracts, signal quality and working with installers and technical support, and then my overall opinion of who the best Internet Provider is in Calgary is.

How ADSL Works and How to Improve ADSL Speed in Calgary

ADSL which stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line is the primary technology Telus uses in Calgary. It involves sending the internet through frequencies not used by voice down your copper phone lines. In order to get higher speeds you need to be close to Telus’ junction box, the farther you are away from the junction box the slower the speeds. Every telephone you use requires micro filters; these filters take out the ADSL signal noises so not to disrupt your phone calls. If you want to not have a filter on every phone you can hire a telephone technician, or an IT company (such as us here at Rocky Mountain Computer Repair) to come in and install one filter at the phone panel to cover you entire house, while the line with the ADSL modem would be connected separately bypassing this filter. The result is less noise interference by filters, and this leads to faster internet. The other thing that slows down ADSL is the use of phone extension cords. Extension cords use very thin stranded copper wire, as compared to internal wall wiring (Cat3e, Cat5e, Cat6) that uses less interfering thicker solid twisted pairs. I’ve seen customers speed increase by as much as 30% just by removing the extension cord they had on their ADSL filter. If you do need a phone extension cord we can build you a quality one out of solid copper Cat6 that will be the same (or higher) grade than your internal wiring for a nominal fee.

How Telus Optik Internet and Optik TV Works

Optik TV and Internet are run on Fiber Optic Cable. Fiber optic is better than coax – it has more bandwidth or ‘more ability to transmit information’, however in CalgaryTelus rarely runs the actual fiber optic into your home or business. Instead they run fiber to the junction boxes, and then rely on ADSL to transmit the internet and TV signal the last 1-2km into your house. This makes it faster than regular ADSL (up to 25Mbps vs. 5Mbps) but the speeds are still limited by the copper lines. To make it worse, the Optik TV is IPTV meaning it is TV that runs on the internet. So every TV in your home that you watch will take away from the speed of your internet. HD TV is approximately 6Mbps each, while standard definition is approximately 3Mbps. So if you have three people watching HD programming at once you are looking at 18Mbps going to TV, meaning there is maybe 5Mbps left for internet. If you turned off all your TVs the internet speed would jump up to 23Mbps. Watching TV slows your internet connection on Telus Optik. Now the only advantage with IPTV is that the PVR boxes can talk to each other on a network. So if you record a show downstairs in the den you can access that recorded show from the TV upstairs in the bedroom. You are also dealing with newer PVR technology that has nicer looking navigation menus, and the ability to record 3 shows at once (vs. 2 on a Shaw PVR). The PVRs Telus uses are run on Microsoft technology, and the Shaw PVRs are run on Motorola technology.

How Shaw Internet Works and How to Improve Shaw Internet Speed

Shaw Internet is run on cable or “coax”, and uses a frequency on the cable that is different from the frequency of which their TV, Digital HD TV, and Phone service are used. The coax is a thick high bandwidth cable that can support many different services. Now many people who had Shaw back in the late 90’s or early 2000 remember the internet slowing down when ‘the kids come home afterschool’ this was true. Back then they did not use Docsis 2.0 and Docsis 3.0 technology. The internet was a shared service and the quality all depended on the number of customers in your neighborhood, and how they used the internet. Now with Docsis this has changed.The speeds are consistent, and they have better management in place to prevent a few of your neighbors from slowing down everyone’s internet. Also the main thing is the bandwidth is huge. Shaw can offer plans with up to 250Mbps download speed, and they are currently trialing 1Gbps down speeds. Shaw is one of the fastest Internet Providers in North America and the fastest in Canada. Their network is large, and they are laying down fiber optic to new neighborhoods and installing the fiber directly into homes and businesses. There are already some businesses and houses that are using Shaw on Fiber instead of coax here in Calgary. Just last month I oversaw a Fiber installation for a client on 74th Street in the Foothills Industrial Park.

Another thing with Shaw is watching TV does not affect the internet speed. As I mentioned earlier coax is a high bandwidth cable. It can handle TV, Phone, and Internet all at once without a problem. Each service runs on a different frequency, and so you can have as many as 100 HD TVs all running at once. That is why you almostnever see Optik TV at a hotel.

Now if your Shaw internet is slower than the package you are paying for the fix might be easier than you think. It is often a Dollar Store Splitter that kills the internet!Splitters degrade the signal your cable modem gets, and dollar store splitters are often 1 way instead of 2 way. This means they block out the signal of the internet modem from communicating back to Shaw. So to improve your Shaw internet speeds look around your basement. Tighten all the cables – a loose cable will also harm your connection. They are very common and easy to fix. If that does not work there may be some older coax cables inside your house or outside that need to be replaced. If you call Shaw and are persistent enough they will come and replace the cables for free. Telus on the other hand will only do the outside, they charge $90 an hour + parts to fix anything on the inside of your building.

When dealing with Shaw tech support it is important you ask “what your levels are” that will be a number in decibels that will tell you how good the connection is. If you get a number and are unsure what it means ask Shaw what the great range is, good range is, and the acceptable and poor ranges are. You can also ask us here at Rocky Mountain Computer Repair. In fact with just an hour of our time we can deal with Shaw and speak the technical talk and get your internet speed improved. We do it for our customers every week. We can also help coordinate your install and book it through the Shaw reps we know and trust and oversee everything for a small fee. Not a bad option for busy professionals; just let us handle it. We will ensure the speeds are right, your wireless router is setup, all the computers are connected, and everything just works.

Contracts vs. No Contracts

Telus often offers their service at a discount as well with a free Xbox, Computer, or other consumer electronic when you sign a contract and Shaw has no contracts. There are advantages to both. I remember when MP3 Players first came out and I was in 7th grade. I convinced my parents to sign a Telus contract to get a free 64mb non-expandable MP3 player! It was great for me and back then the Telus speeds were just as fast as Shaw and so we preferred to go with Telus anyway, a contract was no big deal to us. If you are a casual internet user and the speeds are not important to you signing a contract with Telus may not be a bad option. You get a lower price and a free gift of some sort for signing up. If you have never used a computer before and money is tight the free laptop deal can be pretty appealing. I’ve had many seniors do it and love it. For just $20 more a month they get a new laptop they would otherwise never buy, and the internet. What a great chance to learn how to email and video conference with family across country.

For others contracts can be bad. If another provider comes along and you want to switch, or you end up moving house you are trapped. Instead of being able to come and go as you please your instead locked down to the same internet provider for as long as 3 years. A lot can happen in 3 years. Just think 3 years ago there was no iPad, HDDVD was still in the running, and Obama was only recently inaugurated.

Advantages of Telus Internet in Calgary

  • Price; maybe cheaper than Shaw
  • Contract offers you something free
  • Available in your neighborhood

Advantages of Shaw Internet in Calgary

  • Fastest Internet in Canada – faster than Telus
  • TV does not slow down internet
  • No contracts (you can always cancel and move to Telus if you don’t like it)
  • Tech support is in Canada not outsourced to the Philippines like Telus

My Opinion: The Best Internet Provider in Calgary

As you may have guessed we here at Rocky Mountain Computer Repair favorShaw. While both internet providers offer reliable phone and internet, Shaw offers better speed, better service, and no contracts. Instead of wooing you with an Xbox only to keep you stuck with them for 3 years Shaw instead works hard each and every month to keep you as their loyal customer. Shaw is amazing and we love them!

Update 10/6/2014

Check out this new blog entry on Daniels journey to moving away from Shaw Internet to another Calgary Internet Provider called TekSavvy

Update 10/8/2014

We are officially a reseller of TekSavvy Internet! If you are interested in switching from Shaw or Telus, give us a shout or visit this page 

Author: By Dan Braniff

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