T-Mobile touts 5G roaming deal with GCI in Alaska

GCI launched Alaska’s first 5G service in Anchorage on April 17, 2020. (Pixabay)

T-Mobile struck a 5G roaming deal with GCI in Alaska, prompting T-Mobile to claim it’s the first to offer 5G is all 50 states.

The deal means T-Mobile customers with 5G smartphones can use 5G while roaming in Anchorage, Alaska, which T-Mobile says makes it the first wireless provider to offer 5G coverage in all 50 states.

Likewise, GCI customers when they’re traveling in the lower states will get access to T-Mobile’s 5G network, which now covers more than 1 million square miles and nearly 6,000 cities and towns.

“The massive nationwide 5G network we’re building and expanding by the day - paired with important partnerships like this - extend our 5G leadership over the competition and deliver meaningful 5G experiences to our customers,” said T-Mobile President of Technology Neville Ray in a statement. “Now, our customers with 5G devices can keep 5G service when in Alaska. And to GCI customers, welcome to nationwide 5G!”

In a press release, GCI President and COO Greg Chapados said GCI and T-Mobile have a long history of “firsts” together, including the launch of the nation’s first LTE roaming partnership in 2014. They also were the first service providers to partner together to deliver voice over LTE (VoLTE) service.

GCI just turned on its 5G service in Anchorage in April using gear from Ericsson. At the time, the company said it had upgraded its wireless core, with plans to ugrade the vast majority of cell sites in Anchorage, Eagle River and Girdwood to its 5G NR (New Radio) solution by the end of the year. 

RELATED: GCI turns on Alaska's first 5G service

The operator is using a mix of low- and mid-band spectrum for 5G NR, including 600 MHz, which is what T-Mobile used to cover more than 200 million people with 5G last year. GCI also has a mix of 700 MHz, 850 MHz, PCS and AWS holdings. Overall GCI controls 210 MHz of wireless spectrum in Anchorage. 

GCI calls its service “Hometown 5G” and says it offers speeds five times faster than LTE. It’s also leveraging its metro fiber assets and looking to outfit  every sector of every cell site with five radios to use its low- and mid-band spectrum, leading to improvements in both speed and coverage, particularly in-building coverage.

Future GCI 5G expansion opportunities include Juneau, Fairbanks and other fiber-served communities, but no timeline was attached to those markets.