5G in the far north

July 8, 2019
GCI (NASDAQ:GLIBA) and Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) have announced intentions to work together to build the northernmost 5G mobile network in the United States. It will be ...

GCI (NASDAQ:GLIBA) and Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) have announced intentions to work together to build the northernmost 5G mobile network in the United States. It will be in Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska.

The project is scheduled to begin this summer. Ericsson will deploy its 3GPP standards-based 5G New Radio hardware and software to 82 macro cell sites across Anchorage from Girdwood to Eklutna. GCI will provide backhaul services to these sites, utilizing its metro fiber network. The sites include both towers and building locations. The project is scheduled for completion in 2020, and the initial 5G service is expected to be available during 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."

The GCI fiber network and cable plant offers 1 Gbps service to 95% of households in Anchorage. GCI also controls more low/mid-band mobile radio spectrum than any other wireless provider in in the city and owns more macro cell sites there as well. Specifically, GCI controls 210 MHz of mobile radio spectrum, including low-band 600 MHz, 700 Mhz, and 850 MHz spectrum, which the company says is useful for indoor coverage, and mid-band PCS and AWS spectrum. GCI's 5G NR deployment will take advantage of all five radio bands.

The 5G deployment will support the local government's plan to grow the nation's northernmost smart city. Anchorage has a "light grid" for street lights and is investigating other automated systems.

"We're not stopping with the deployment of a 5G macro network," Duncan said. "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 Anchorage and 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 WiFi and other technologies."

As for Ericsson, this is the company's 22nd publicly announced 5G contract.

"Ericsson and GCI have partnered over the past decade to connect customers in some of the most remote communities in Alaska," said Borje Ekholm, president and CEO, Ericsson. "We are pleased to continue working with GCI to bring 5G service to Alaska's biggest city. 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 healthcare industries across Alaska."