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GCI Launches 4G LTE In Unalaska

Laura Kraegel/KUCB

Less than a week after delaying the launch of 4G LTE in Unalaska, GCI has the service up and running.

“We’re just happy to have LTE turned on," said GCI Vice President Dan Boyette. "I know we made a lot of promises and gave a lot of dates over the last several months and we finally got it done.”

GCI first promised a faster, more reliable mobile network — including data — by the end of 2017. But construction snags and testing caused multiple launch delays.

At this point, Boyette says he can’t say exactly what speeds users should anticipate seeing.

“I’m not real excited to give a number about what to expect. In general, the speeds should be quite useable," Boyette said. "There shouldn’t be any issue with downloading the data you want to download for whatever it is you're doing – email, checking the weather, checking stocks.”

Because Unalaska’s LTE is over satellite it will not be as fast as LTE on the mainland.

Boyette says GCI choose to use a 700 Mhz frequency for this service because it allows for a high capacity and a broad coverage area. But this means if you a phone older than an iPhone 6S or Samsung Galaxy S6, you’re out of luck. Buying a new phone is the only way to access GCI’s LTE service.

“We don’t have any plans to change the spectrum for LTE. We’re going to keep it at 700 Mhz," Boyette said. "So if you have an old phone and do want to switch over to LTE, we invite you to come over and see us and we could help you with a new phone.”

Newer phones should automatically connect to the network. But if you are having difficulties, Boyette says the local GCI store should be able to help troubleshoot.

Following the launch of LTE, GCI ran into service issues where cell phone customers were unable to call landlines including 911.

“Anytime there’s difficulty calling from cellphone to wire-line, 911 calling will suffer," Boyette said. "We recognize that that’s an issue and certainly there’s nothing fun about an outage. It’s all risky. We have had some trouble with that connection in the last several months.”

This is at least the fifth time, this type of problem has occurred since early October.

Zoë Sobel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2019. She returned to KUCB after a year living in Nepal and Malaysia as a Luce Scholar. She then returned to KUCB as a ProPublica reporter August of 2020 through August of 2021.
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