Alaskan operator GCI charts course to 10 Gbps

Alaskan operator GCI revealed a plan to take 10 Gbps service into the wild within the next five years, setting an interim target to deliver 2 Gbps to a majority of residents in the state next year.

Company CEO Ron Duncan claimed in a statement that once its network upgrades are complete “Alaska will lead the nation in 2 gig speeds. And it will be our turn, once again, to wait for the rest of the country to catch up.”

Specifically, GCI outlined a plan to serve 77% of Alaskans with 2 Gbps service in 2022, including those living in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Petersburg, Sitka, Wrangell and Valdez. It said customers currently on its 1 Gbps rate plan will be the first to get upgraded to 2 Gbps and will not be charged extra for the faster speeds.

Duncan Whitney, GCI chief product officer, told Fierce in an email it will use DOCSIS 3.1 to jump from 1 Gbps to 2 Gbps. He added it has “no plans to increase the price” of the rate plan set to receive the speed upgrade, stating “it is being rolled out as a permanent change and not a promotion.”

For the leap to 10 Gbps, Whitney said GCI plans to use a combination of DOCSIS and HFC advancements alongside ongoing fiber deployments. “The technology roadmap to 10 Gbps is very clear for both DOCSIS/HFC and fiber-based PON technologies, and we are confident in our and our industry partners’ ability to execute on those roadmaps to get us there on the timelines stated,” he wrote.

The company launched its gigabit service in 2015. It noted approximately 77% of Alaskans now live within its 1 Gbps footprint but added it was working to expand that figure with planned 1 gig launches in Nome and Kotzebue in 2021 and a previously announced Aleutians Fiber Project designed to reach rural Western parts of the state. GCI President and COO Greg Chapados said in a statement the latter effort “should be substantially complete by the end of next year.”

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While Whitney said GCI doesn’t publicly share details around its capex plans, he noted it doesn’t expect “to have major step function increases in investment” in order to get to 10 Gbps.

GCI certainly isn’t the only operator striving to offer 10 Gbps service. Earlier this month, Altice USA revealed it is pushing to deploy a 10 Gbps product by the end of 2022. Meanwhile, Circle Fiber announced in March it was deploying XGS-PON fiber technology in Missouri to deliver speeds up to 10 Gbps, and AT&T started its own XGS-PON rollout a year prior.