Ericsson will build a 5G network in Municipality of Anchorage for GCI, Alaska’s largest telecommunications company.
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.
GCI’s robust metro fiber network and cable plant already offers Gigabit cable modem service to 95 percent of Anchorage households. GCI controls more low- and 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.
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.
The FCC has awarded several companies with a total of nearly $50 million to provide 3G and 4G wireless systems in unserved rural areas through the Tribal Mobility Fund.
The biggest winner, General Communications was selected to receive $41.4 million to serve more than 37,000 Alaskans across 48 communities. Copper Valley Wireless also received funding for Alaska projects. Additionally, Commnet Wireless, Smith Bagley and Triangle Communication System also were awarded funding for tribal communities in other states.
The FCC announced in April 2013 it would provide one-time support to companies committed to building 3G or 4G mobile broadband networks in underserved tribal communities. The fund will provide support for projects across the nation, with wireless carriers in Arizona, Montana, New Mexico and Utah also submitting winning bids.
GCI expects to deploy the enhanced service within two or three years depending on construction schedules and the type of technology deployed. It must first file a long form to the FCC for approval before it can go ahead with construction.
In 2012, GCI and Alaska Communications merged their wireless assets in order to better compete with Verizon Wireless and AT&T. Their combined spectrum holdings include 115 megahertz in the 850 MHz, 1.9 GHz and 2.1 GHz bands. Today, GCI has more than 141,000 subscribers and has coverage of 95 percent of the population.