Alaska’s largest telecommunications company, announced today a partnership with Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) to build the nation’s northernmost 5G network in Anchorage, the state’s largest city.
Starting this summer, the partners will deploy Ericsson’s 3GPP standards-based 5G New Radio (NR) hardware and software to 82 macro cell sites across the Municipality of Anchorage 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,” said GCI CEO Ron Duncan. “We are bringing all our assets – fiber, spectrum, wireless footprint, Alaska expertise – to bear on that commitment.”
GCI’s robust metro fiber network and cable plant already offers 1 GIG cable modem service to 95% of Anchoragehouseholds. GCI controls more low/mid-band mobile radio spectrum than any other wireless provider in Anchorage. And it has 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 Anchoragewireless network by 10 times or more and also provide better coverage,” said Duncan. “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.
“Ericsson and GCI have partnered over the past decade to connect customers in some of the most remote communities in Alaska. We are pleased to continue working with GCI to bring 5G service to Alaska’s biggest city,” said Ekholm. “The introduction of 5G will create a powerful platform for innovation. Using 5G, new use cases benefitting society, consumers and enterprises, will be created. Consumers will benefit from a premium experience with faster speeds and better coverage, while new wireless functionality will accelerate applications for the oil and gas, mining and health care industries across Alaska.”
“Ericsson is a trusted partner that has helped us deliver terrestrial broadband and mobile wireless service solutions to rural Alaska, and we are pleased to work with them again to provide 5G service to our customers in Alaska’s largest urban market,” said Duncan. “Much as the transition from 3G to 4G LTE paved the way for game-changing services such as mobile ride hailing and remote telemedicine, the move to 5G will enable yet another wave of innovation in Alaska, including IoT (Internet of Things) applications in the home, business and industrial areas like the North Slope.”
GCI’s 5G deployment will support local government efforts to grow the nation’s northernmost smart city. The Municipality of 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 to residents.
“Smart city technology enables the Municipality to deliver services like transit and power more efficiently, reducing costs and improving the lives of our residents,” said Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. “GCI’s investment in a faster urban wireless network helps Anchorage remain competitive and helps us retain and attract business and talent.”
“Innovation has driven GCI for 40 years, and innovation is still at the core of our business strategy today,” said Duncan. “We’re not stopping with the deployment of a 5G macro network. GCI’s mission is to provide Alaska residents the best of the wireless and wireline worlds. Later this year, we will be announcing the move to an all IP cable plant in Anchorageand other Alaska cities. Our teams are working to integrate GCI’s wireless network and our metro fiber/cable plant network to fully enable microcell, managed Wi-Fi and other technologies.”
“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.”