Founded in 1966, Shaw Communications is a diversified telecommunications company serving Western Canada with broadband Internet, WiFi, video, and digital phone services as well as wireless services through its recent acquisition of WIND Mobile. Through its subsidiary Shaw Business, the company owns and operates a national fibre-optic backbone network providing data networking, video, voice, and Internet services to companies of all sizes.
As a trusted advisor for small and medium sized Canadian businesses (SMBs), Shaw Business wanted to make WiFi and network security more affordable and manageable for such companies. “Small and medium sized growing companies can have limited budgets and IT resources,” said Ron McKenzie, Senior Vice President, Business. “We believe providing WiFi can be more than just connectivity—it can be a powerful customer retention and marketing tool, a competitive advantage, and a fundamental characteristic of a forward-thinking business.”
Meraki’s cloud-based model was attractive to us for its faster deployment, simple and flexible management tools, powerful analytics, and real-time updates.Ron McKenzie, Senior Vice President, Shaw Business
As a result, Shaw Business partnered with Meraki to create SmartWiFi to fulfil the wireless requirements of small- and medium-sized businesses as well as offer them intelligence to help grow their business. “We were impressed with the feature set Meraki would bring to SmartWiFi,” said McKenzie. “Meraki’s cloud-based model was attractive to us for its faster deployment, simple and flexible management tools, powerful analytics, and real-time updates.”
Meraki’s cloud-managed architecture with zero-touch provisioning is ideally suited to providing service providers an unrivalled time to market for innovative new services. “It was clear to us that Cisco Meraki’s technology was the ideal fit for Shaw to use when building SmartWiFi,” said McKenzie. Thousands of SmartWiFi customer deployments can be managed remotely by Shaw using just a web browser—the Meraki dashboard. The dashboard provides a highly intuitive user interface that is devoid of any command lines, allowing Shaw to minimize sales and NOC training requirements as well as to accelerate proof-of-concept testing. Furthermore, Meraki’s straightforward hardware plus licensing model means that for every order of SmartWiFi Shaw receives, only two SKUs are required for the bill of materials: a Meraki wireless access point and its corresponding license.
SmartWiFi provides small- and medium-sized businesses with fast, reliable, and secure WiFi, which until now was achievable only by large-scale enterprises. “With SmartWiFi, SMBs can spend less time and money managing their WiFi and focus on their core competency while growing their business,” said McKenzie. “SmartWiFi provides SMBs three secure wireless networks through one Internet connection for staff, guests, and Shaw Go WiFi access, which is a major benefit for business owners.”
Shaw Go WiFi is Canada’s largest WiFi network with hundreds of thousands of users and over 75,000 locations. Shaw Go WiFi customers are able to locate access locations by searching an online directory. By choosing SmartWiFi, small businesses are automatically added as a Shaw Go WiFi network and are able to reach thousands of potentially new customers.
In addition to delivering enterprise-grade WiFi to small businesses, SmartWiFi provides powerful information about the devices connecting to their network, as well as insight into customer behaviour to make more informed decisions to improve productivity and enhance customer experience. “Gathering usage data from devices and using the included analytics engine returns value to the business in the form of actionable information that can allow the business owner to make better decisions that better suit their customers,” said McKenzie. “For example, the dashboard has allowed business owners to easily identify the most popular mobile devices on their network and consequently tailor their offers to be better displayed on these devices.”
Shaw provides SmartWiFi customers access to this information in a user-friendly format at no additional cost or increased complexity through an online portal. SmartWiFi customers are provided ‘monitor-only’ rights to their business’ dashboard that is the same view Shaw NOC staff would see, but with a streamlined configuration view. Business owners can manage basic wireless settings for staff and guest networks such as SSID name, encryption, and splash page for easy self-service. Moreover Shaw was able to customize the monitor-only view of the dashboard further with Shaw Business branding and with the standard Meraki support number replaced by the SmartWiFi helpdesk telephone number.
“We have a simple three-tier pricing model so SMBs have a plan that fits their needs for download and upload speeds, data allowances, and number of connected devices,” said McKenzie. SmartWiFi packages are inclusive of an Internet connection, meaning SMBs have a consolidated flat-rate monthly cost from a single provider, three fully managed wireless networks, and access to support services.
Meraki allows Shaw to get customer sites live with SmartWiFi in remarkably short order. Once an order for SmartWiFi is received, a Shaw technician is dispatched to the customer location to perform a survey to determine how many APs are needed. No configuration of the access point itself is required. While the technician is on site, Shaw NOC staff create a new network by cloning settings from a master network in their multi-tenanted Meraki dashboard and adding the required number of Meraki wireless access points. This entire process is complete in a matter of minutes and with a few simple mouse-clicks. The Meraki APs now simply need to be plugged in, at which point the APs tunnel a secure connection to the cloud and download their configuration settings to start broadcasting the three SSIDs.
Meraki allows Shaw to provide SmartWiFi customers with outstanding customer service, with most support cases resolved in real-time. For troubleshooting tasks that would typically require a network technician to be called on site, such as packet captures, Shaw NOC staff are able to work through these issues remotely via the dashboard. “We want Shaw Business to be an extension of our customers’ IT department,” explained McKenzie. “If they need support, Shaw Business will be there online or over the phone to resolve issues and ensure SmartWiFi is delivering value to their business.”
SmartWiFi has proven to be a great success for Shaw Business in a short period of time, having already amassed a large number of happy customers. The IT manager of one particular architecture firm that has implemented SmartWiFi said their employees and guests are thrilled with the speed and robustness of the network. “We’ve had many customers tell us how much value SmartWiFi has brought to their businesses,” said McKenzie. “They’re happy with the quality of the WiFi and how easy it is to manage, and they are excited by the wealth of business insight they receive about device usage and the user habits that the analytics provide.”