Unalaska now has the fastest cell service in rural Alaska. That’s according to telecommunications company GCI, which turned up the high speed service on the island Tuesday, making it the state’s first rural community with a 5G connection.
The company said it cost them $4.9 million to upgrade the wireless network.
“It is the best of the best in terms of wireless service,” said GCI Rural Affairs Director Jen Nelson. “It produces the fastest data speeds. It’s an even more reliable voice service. So it’s really bringing Unalaska to the forefront of cities in the country.”
Nelson said GCI was the first provider in Alaska to offer 5G coverage, which first launched in Anchorage in 2020, followed by Fairbanks, Palmer, Wasilla, Juneau, Eagle River and Girdwood.
“So you are right up there with the rest of the urban communities in Alaska,” Nelson said.
The development in Unalaska comes about eight months after the state’s largest telecommunications company connected its first island residents to 2 gig fiber speeds. In May, they upgraded customers to 2.5 gig internet speeds.
GCI’s AU-Aleutians Fiber project has been in the works since 2020. The project aims to close the digital divide in the region with an 800-mile undersea cable running from Kodiak to Unalaska, promising high-speed broadband connection across the Aleutian chain.
“Connecting Unalaska with fiber connectivity has allowed us to make this wireless upgrade to bring Unalaska on par with urban communities like what our customers experience in Anchorage, and that’s just a really, really huge deal,” Nelson said.
GCI connected three Eastern Aleutian communities to fiber-optic broadband last month. Nelson said the company plans to continue connecting Aleutian and Alaska Peninsula communities to high-speed internet. From there, she said, they plan to make mobile upgrades throughout the region, but did not specify a timeline.