General Communication Inc (GCI) and its wholly owned subsidiary, United Utilities Inc (UUI), have announced plans to provide terrestrial broadband services to the residents of 65 remote, rural communities in Bristol Bay and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. At the end of 2011, a year ahead of schedule, UUI completed the construction of TERRA-Southwest, the first terrestrial broadband transport link connecting Anchorage to the 65 communities in question. At the beginning of 2012 TERRA-Southwest began providing terrestrial broadband service to critical community service providers such as schools, hospitals, and health clinics. As a result of the early completion of TERRA-Southwest, GCI and UUI have accelerated their plans to deploy broadband to the communities. The first phase of deployment will begin in June and is expected to be completed by mid-October 2012, a year ahead of the original schedule. Broadband services will be delivered over different networks depending on the ‘unique topographic features’ of each community, with Wi-Fi and ADSL expected to be deployed where available.
Founded in 1979, GCI introduced long-distance competition to Alaska and has subsequently grown to become one of the region’s best known integrated telecommunication providers. GCI has a 45% share of the state’s long-distance market, and a 70% share of the consumer broadband segment. The telco also claims to be Alaska’s largest provider of cable internet services, which are available to 99% of its subscriber base.
In other news, GCI, alongside local rival Alaska Communications, and a number of other disparate regional operators, have said that they will begin selling heavily subsidised iPhones on 20 April. In a move that has sent shockwaves through the wireless market, the Alaskan firms, alongside NTelos Wireless of Virginia, Appalachian Wireless of Kentucky and the Matanuska Telephone Association, will charge USD150 for the basic 4S model, USD49 less than the price charged by AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. Controversially, in May 2010 Apple went on record to confirm that the original agreement signed with AT&T for iPhone exclusivity back in 2007 was a five-year deal, although both Verizon and Sprint Nextel were later permitted to sell the iPhone during that period. C Spire (formerly Cellular South) became the first non-Tier 1 mobile carrier to offer the iPhone, in October last year. Around the same time, US Cellular confirmed that it was offered the chance to sell the iPhone but chose not to do so because it did not make economic sense for the company. To date, T-Mobile USA remains the only major wireless carrier not to offer the iPhone, although this is largely due to network incompatibility issues. Anchorage-based GCI and rival Alaska Communications have 140,000 and 118,000 wireless subscribers, respectively.