The Future of 5G for Alaska: The Last Frontier at the forefront of technology.

Author:Barbour, Tracy
 
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You may be wondering: When is 5G coming to Alaska and how will it change my connectivity--and life? Well, the wait is winding down. The foundation of 5G is being laid, and Alaskans will soon be able to experience the benefits of this advanced technology, according to the state's providers.

Last summer GCI partnered with multinational networking and telecom company Ericsson to build the nation's northernmost 5G network in Anchorage. GCI is merging its metro fiber network and radio spectrum holdings with Ericsson's technology to deliver Alaska's first standards-based 5G new radio (NR) experience. More specifically, GCI is deploying Ericsson's 3rd Generation Partnership Project standards-based 5G NR hardware and software to about eighty macro cell sites across Anchorage, according to a June news release. These sites will be supported by backhaul services provided by GCI's metro fiber network. The project will be complete in 2020, with initial 5G service coming online during the first half of the year.

5G NR is the global standard for a unified 5G wireless air interface. 5G NR will deliver a substantially faster and more responsive mobile broadband experience as well as enable new wireless capabilities and applications. The combination of GCI's assets and Ericsson's 5G NR solution will increase its Anchorage wireless network capacity by ten times or more and provide better coverage.

Over the next few years, GCI intends to launch two different 5G modes: non-standalone 5G and standalone 5G, according to Josh Lonn, GCI's vice president of wireless products. He explains: "Non-standalone 5G relies on an existing LTE network for certain functions, combined with 5G NR. Pretty much everyone will be launching 5G in non-standalone mode, since it allows us to use many of the LTE assets that support our LTE network today. Over time, we'll see standalone 5G, where all services will be delivered over 5G. When standalone materializes, we'll start to see additional benefits like true network slicing and ultra-low latency. That's not to say 5G-NR non-standalone isn't worth the effort. LTE is a critical ingredient in the path to 5G."

As GCI modernizes its network, starting with urban markets, it's deploying more radio spectrum than ever before, Lonn says. And 5G is an important ingredient in this modernization story. "We really can't wait to make Alaska the first frontier for 5G," says Lonn.

GCI is constantly evolving its network, and device manufacturers are always adding functionality, Lonn says. 5G will enable consumers using newer LTE devices to experience significant...

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