GCI announces plans for 5G in Anchorage

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - GCI announced in a press conference on Tuesday that it will be bringing 5G service to Alaska.

The company says it plans to have 82 macro cell sites installed from Eklutna to Girdwood in 2020 with service coming online in the first part of that year.

GCI is currently the largest telecom company in Alaska with widespread service throughout rural Alaska, though the company says that installing 5G capability in rural Alaska just doesn’t pencil out.

That might come in the future.

“We expect that 5G will expand to at least all of the fiber-served areas of our state,” said GCI founder and CEO Ron Duncan at a press conference.

He said that he expects that GCI will expand to Juneau and Fairbanks within a few years.

“Anchorage will serve as the model for our network modernization efforts in other Alaska cities,” says GCI in a press release.

Consumers will need phones with 5G NR radios in order to use the faster service--something that is holding back more widespread availability in other areas too,--though GCI claims that even consumers with phones without that capability will benefit due to “additional radio spectrum” that GCI is setting up.

GCI founder and CEO Ron Duncan said that it will make a huge difference for businesses in town.

“Everywhere you go in Anchorage, you’re not gonna have to think: ‘Is there connectivity there?’” he said.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who was a participant in the press conference, agreed.

“This is cutting edge technology that allows us to be globally competitive. When we have infrastructure that is one of the first in the world, then we are an attractive place for businesses to remain and to relocate,” he said. “We are not playing from behind, we are leading.”

Among the changes that 5G is expected to eventually bring is so-called “smart cities,” which would link all of the data about the city allowing for driverless cars.

Mayor Berkowitz joked about the idea of a future of smart cities in Alaska.

“We do hope that Juneau can become a smart capital one day,” he said.

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