Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 3:38 PM on Wednesday, July 20, 2011

GCI first out in race to go to 4G networks

Morris News Service - Alaska

General Communications Inc. is getting off the line first in the 4G race.

GCI, the second-largest wireless provider in Alaska behind AT&T, plans to turn on its upgraded Anchorage network in the first week of August. The company is spending $34 million this year for its 4G upgrade in Anchorage and to bring 3G coverage to an additional 20 communities.

Anchorage-based Alaska Communication Systems Inc., which originally had $12 million budgeted this year to move toward 4G speeds with upgraded backhaul infrastructure, announced plans June 22 to spend another $20 million to build out the first 4G LTE network in the state.

Backhaul refers to the routing of voice and data traffic, which in a 4G network means the use of "packet switching," a common technology used by computer networks to bundle and move data more efficiently. A 3G network uses a combination of packet switching and "circuit switching," which traces its name back to the old switchboards formally used to connect telephone calls.

LTE stands for "long term evolution" and refers to the eventual connecting of all electronic devices to enable integration of home, car and smartphone platforms.