Alaskans love their gigabits, apparently.
GCI, the top service provider in the state, says nearly 40% of its broadband customers take a 1 Gbit/s service tier. GCI reckons that take-up is about four times the national rate, citing a recent study from OpenVault finding that 9.8% of Internet customers subscribed to a 1-Gig plan in Q1 2021.
"Alaskans, in general, have been quick to adopt new technologies, especially when it comes to connectivity, and 1-Gig Internet has been no different. We're not just early adopters of the next generations of technology because we want to be, we're early adopters because we have to be," GCI Chief Marketing Officer Kate Slyker said in a statement.
The pandemic also played a role as people worked and schooled from home. According to Heather Handyside, GCI's chief communications officer, GCI has seen network traffic spikes up to 50% over the past 18 months.
GCI's 1-Gig adoption rate appears to be similar to what Altice USA is now seeing in areas where it is offering such speeds via its hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) plant (using DOCSIS 3.1 technology) and where it has upgraded to fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP). In April, Altice USA said 43% of gross broadband subscriber additions in 1-Gig areas took that top speed in Q1 2021, up from just 13% a year ago. Altice USA attributed the rise in part to pandemic-fueled data demands and the expansion of its gigabit-capable network.
GCI, now a subsidiary of Liberty Broadband, estimates it currently provides access to 1-Gig speeds to 77% of Alaskans. The operator plans to bring 1-Gig to Nome and Kotzebue later this year as part of an AU-Aleutians Fiber Project that will bring gigabit capabilities to six remote Western Alaska communities. That project, developed in partnership with Quintillion, centers on the deployment of an 860-mile subsea fiber system.
GCI is now in pursuit of even faster speeds. In May, the company announced it would use both advanced DOCSIS technologies and some targeted FTTP deployments to bring 2 Gbit/s capabilities to 77% of the state in 2022. It's also starting to lay the groundwork for 10-Gig speeds within the next five years.
"It's bold. It's pushing the envelope," Ron Duncan, GCI's CEO and co-founder, said of the plan during an event that announced the company's 2-Gig broadband plan. "There are a lot of use cases we don't even know about yet."
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading