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5G launches in Alaska

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Last year network operator GCI announced that it would have 5G operating in Alaska by Spring 2020, and despite the global coronavirus pandemic causing disruption to 5G roll-out around the world, the company has made good on its promise, and turned on its first 5G towers in Anchorage.

"In June of 2019, we committed to launching 5G service in the spring of 2020. I am proud to announce today we have delivered on that commitment," said GCI CEO and Co-Founder Ron Duncan. "We have upgraded our wireless core, and we intend to upgrade the vast majority of cell sites in Anchorage, Eagle River and Girdwood to our 5-band 5G NR (New Radio) solution by the end of the year. At that point, we will have created essentially a brand-new wireless network in Anchorage, comparable in quality and performance to GCI's industry-leading cable modem network."

Working with Ericsson

"I want to emphasize that this increase will also benefit our LTE customers, not just users of 5G handsets. This is a win for all GCI wireless customers and for all of Anchorage."

Ron Duncan, GCI.

In partnership with Ericsson, GCI launched its Hometown 5G project,  turning on its first 5G sites in Anchorage on April 17th, making it the northernmost 5G carrier in the US. Over the last 40 years GCI has invested more than $3 billion in Alaska, to deliver communications services throughout the State. And GCI employs 2,000 Alaskans, serving more than 200 communities.

"Our Hometown 5G project is introducing standards-based 5G NR technology to Alaska," continued Duncan. "5G is a fundamental enabling technology. As it matures, 5G will support innovative consumer and business applications, including IoT (internet of things), smart cities, connected vehicles, and eHealth."

According to GCI, Hometown 5G will combine GCI's unique radio spectrum and metro fiber assets to create a vastly more capable network, five times faster than before. Every sector of every cell site will be outfitted with five radios to utilize GCI's low-band and mid-band radio spectrum, driving massive improvements in speed and coverage, particularly in-building coverage. 

"This increase in wireless speeds and coverage comes at a time when data connectivity is more important than ever," said Duncan. "I want to emphasize that this increase will also benefit our LTE customers, not just users of 5G handsets. This is a win for all GCI wireless customers and for all of Anchorage."

Continued collaboration

"We look forward to continuing our collaboration with GCI to turn the Last Frontier into the First Frontier with 5G."

Rob Johnson, Ericsson.

Having met the 5G service launch commitment, GCI is directing all its efforts to completing its 2020 cell site upgrade plan. And the Alaskan network operator is working closely with Ericsson to drive the required cell site upgrades throughout Anchorage, providing Alaskans with network connectivity currently being enjoyed by inhabitants of less remote cities within the United States.

"We're proud to partner with GCI to deploy 5G in Anchorage to give Alaskans the network quality and speed they want and need," said Rob Johnson, Head of Customer Unit Regional Carriers for Ericsson North America. "Ericsson and GCI have had a long-standing partnership to connect customers in some of the most remote communities in Alaska, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with GCI to turn the Last Frontier into the First Frontier with 5G."

The Hometown 5G project represents an investment of tens of millions of dollars in Anchorage's economy. It will provide a powerful platform for innovation as the Municipality strives to transform itself into the nation's northernmost smart city.





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Dan is a British journalist with 20 years of experience in the design and tech sectors, producing content for the likes of Microsoft, Adobe, Dell and The Sunday Times. In 2012 he helped launch the world's number one design blog, Creative Bloq. Dan is now editor-in-chief at 5Gradar, where he oversees news, insight and reviews, providing an invaluable resource for anyone looking to stay up-to-date with the key issues facing 5G.