GCI is going where no Alaska telecom companies have gone before: It’s investing tens of millions of dollars into technology that delivers lightning-speed data, cutting download times in half.
It’s called 5G, and there aren’t all that many places in the world that have it.
Ron Duncan, CEO of GCI, made the announcement today, saying that a partnership with Ericsson, one of the world’s top providers of 5G technology, will making it possible for the homegrown Alaska company to bring a 5G network first to Anchorage, and later to other urban centers such as Fairbanks, Mat-Su and Juneau.
It’s a sign that the company has “cautious confidence” in Alaska’s economy, Duncan said. “I will say it’s an improving level of confidence. We are gradually becoming convinced that we are at the bottom (of the recession) and are slowly crawling out of it. We are comfortable that the state is on an improving trend.”
Starting this summer, the company will deploy Ericsson’s 5G New Radio hardware and software to 82 macro cell sites from Girdwood to Eklutna, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.
GCI’s metro fiber network will provide backhaul services to these sites, which include both towers and building locations. The project will be completed in 2020 with initial 5G service coming online in the first half of the year.
“We are committed to providing superior 5G wireless service to the residents of Anchorage just as we already provide the fastest internet service,” Duncan said. “We are bringing all our assets – fiber, spectrum, wireless footprint, Alaska expertise – to bear on that commitment.”
GCI’s 5G deployment will support local Anchorage’s efforts to grow the nation’s northernmost smart city. Anchorage already uses a “light grid” to improve efficiency for municipal street lights and is exploring programs that rely on automated systems and connectivity to deliver services more efficiently.
5G is new — so new that only large cities have it, at this point, according to HowtoGeek.com. In fact, Anchorage will be the smallest U.S. city to have those 5G bragging rights.
GCI controls more low/mid-band mobile radio spectrum than any other wireless provider in Anchorage and more macro cell sites in Anchorage than any other Alaska wireless provider.
“The combination of our assets and Ericsson’s industry-leading 5G solution will increase the capacity of our Anchorage wireless network by 10 times or more and also provide better coverage,” Duncan said. “All of our customers will benefit from this increase in capacity.”
The announcement was made at a joint press conference attended by Ericsson President and CEO Börje Ekholm and members of the company’s leadership team who traveled to Alaska to be present at the announcement.
“The result will be a wireless/wireline experience that will provide our customers nearly ubiquitous data connectivity. We are making these investments here in Anchorage because it’s our hometown, and we know how to deliver service to Alaskans better than any other provider. Anchorage will serve as the model for our network modernization efforts in other Alaska cities,” Duncan said.
For more information about GCI and its 5G network, visit https://www.gci.com/.