Basics EditThe cellular phone system in the northwestern US state of Alaska is quite different from the other 48 US states of the mainland. That's why a special article is now dedicated to Alaska similar to Puerto Rico on the other side of the US. For basic information about the US cellular or mobile phone system please check our United States main article first.
There are only three cellular networks operating in Alaska:
- GCI (including ACS)
- Verizon (on 4G/LTE-only)
You'll need to accept that your cell phone will not work everywhere. Data service is good in towns and varies from good to non-existent between towns. Most of these villages have cell phone coverage, but usually don’t have dual coverage. Meaning, it’s either an AT&T or GCI village. Keep in mind, that 911 will still work.
T-Mobile doesn't operate an own network natively in the entirety of Alaska. Their postpaid customers can roam on GCI, but all prepaid clients don't have any coverage at all. That's why T-Mobile can't be recommended for Alaska on prepaid here.
Sprint doesn't have any own coverage in Alaska and uses GCI's CDMA network for roaming.
GCI for General Communication Inc. is a telecommunications corporation operating only in Alaska. Based in Anchorage they provide cable TV service, internet access, wireline and cellular telephone service in GSM and CDMA. GCI is the dominant cable and broadband provider in Alaska, and has a bit less than half of the wireless market share.
In 2014, GCI agreed to purchase the wireless assets of rival Alaska Communications (ACS) and merged their CDMA network into their own dubbed The Alaska Wireless Network.
In 2017 GCI was sold to media conglomerate Liberty Interactive Corp. and will change its name to GCI Liberty in 2018, while its mobile brand will continue to operate under the GCI brand and logo.
2G/GSM and 3G/UMTS operates on 1900 MHz in urban and 850 MHz in rural areas. Their 4G is on AWS 1700 MHz (band 4) and recently spectrum was acquired on band 12 in 700 MHz. In the US mainland GCI uses the network of T-Mobile in roaming.
GCT has a very wide 3G coverage including inhabited rural areas plus limited 4G/LTE coverage in cities so far. Check GCI's coverage maps. It's not currently available in the following communities: Dutch Harbor, Adak, Akutan and Sand Point.
GCI's prepaid plans are called Fastphone. To get one of their SIM cards visit their stores (locator) or one of their authorized retailers.
Top-ups can be made by auto-pay linked to a credit card, online and enter your 10 digit prepaid phone number or over the phone by calling 444-8100.
Prepaid plans Edit
These combo plans valid for 30 days are available:
- $ 20: 1 GB data, unlimited Alaska voice and texts
- $ 35: 3 GB data, unlimited US voice and texts
- $ 45: 6 GB data, unlimited US voice and texts
- $ 55: 10 GB data, unlimited US voice and texts
Additional data is $ 0.01 per 5 KB (which adds to more than $ 2 per MB).
Better buy one of these add-ons for extra data:
- 1 GB for 30 days: $ 10
- 2 GB for 60 days: $ 20
- 5 GB for 90 days: $ 30
More info Edit
- APN: web.gci
- Website: http://www.gci.com
In the larger cities and towns AT&T has excellent coverage in 3G, some even have 4G/LTE. On the long highway stretches between towns they have pretty good coverage, but it’s not always 4G/LTE. AT&T for prepaid operates entirely on their own network of towers. If they don’t have a tower, you won’t have service; coverage map (zoom to Alaska)
AT&T in Alaska shares the market mainly with GCI. All prices and plans shown in the United States chapter for AT&T and its resellers apply to Alaska too. So check our AT&T chapter for further details.
The major CDMA provider Verizon from the US has started in 2014 to built up its own 4G/LTE network in Alaska. This currently covers the populated areas and when outside their network, you roam on GCI 3G towers in CDMA/EVDO. This gives Verizon customers from the US a good coverage on the long highway stretches between towns.
Verizon is pretty inaccessible for overseas customers with GSM-based phones. For further details check our section about Verizon in the US.