GCI, Ericsson turn up 5G NR cell sites in Anchorage, AK

April 21, 2020
GCI's metro fiber network will deliver the broadband connectivity needed to support the upgraded cell sites. "GCI was the first to bring 1 Gig Internet to Alaska, and now we are the first to bring 5G to the state," noted GCI's co-founder, Ron Duncan.

In partnership with Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC), as of April 17, GCI Liberty, Inc. (NASDAQ: GLIBA) has reportedly turned up its first 5G cell sites in Anchorage, AK. The Hometown 5G project combines GCI's wireless spectrum and metro fiber assets to create a network five times faster than before.

"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," commented GCI CEO and co-founder Ron Duncan. In the project, every sector of every cell site is being outfitted with five radios to utilize GCI's low-band and mid-band spectrum.

"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," explained Duncan. "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."

GCI's metro fiber network will deliver the broadband connectivity needed to support the upgraded cell sites. "Our Hometown 5G project is introducing standards-based 5G NR technology to Alaska," observed 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."

"We're proud to partner with GCI to deploy 5G in Anchorage to give Alaskans the network quality and speed they want and need," added 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."

GCI currently sells devices that will support 5G service after a software update is released in the coming weeks. Additional 5G handsets are expected to become available later this year.

"This increase in wireless speeds and coverage comes at a time when data connectivity is more important than ever," added GCI's 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."

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz commented: "Anchorage has always aspired to be on the cutting edge of communication, and the extension of 5G service in our community helps us get there. The COVID-19 pandemic brings home how critical high-quality, high-speed communication is for our businesses and our families."

"GCI was the first to bring 1 Gig Internet to Alaska, and now we are the first to bring 5G to the state," noted GCI's Duncan.

He concluded, "The launch of the Hometown 5G project is only the beginning. GCI is working to reinvent wireless service in Alaska by integrating its wireless and wireline networks to support microcells, managed WiFi, and other technologies to provide a superior data connectivity experience to Alaskans. Hometown 5G will inform our wireless/wireline network modernization efforts in other Alaska cities."        

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