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  6.  | 5G Wireless Coming to Prudhoe Bay

5G Wireless Coming to Prudhoe Bay

by | Dec 3, 2021 | Energy, News, Oil & Gas, Telecom & Tech

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After bringing fifth-generation (5G) wireless coverage to Alaska’s most populous area, GCI next plans to expand service to the state’s richest industrial zone. A 5G network for the Prudhoe Bay area is scheduled for completion in 2022. The service brings WiFi-like data capacity at cellphone range, enhancing the remote monitoring and control of the sprawling oil fields.

Industrial Connectivity

For users of 5G-compatible devices, the network is comparable to using a cable modem, only wirelessly. GCI activated its first 5G service in April 2020, covering Anchorage, Girdwood, Eagle River, and Chugiak. Since then, one site has been added for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, with more on the way this month and into 2022. For the next stage, though, GCI is looking beyond where the people are to where ubiquitous wireless connectivity can make the most impact for the state’s biggest industry.

“The prep work to launch 5G began about two years ago as we upgraded our long-haul fiber capacity and resiliency so we can provide hundreds of gigs of capacity to the greater Prudhoe, North Slope region,” says Aaron Helmericks, senior director of energy and mining for GCI Business. He expects 5G to be operational on the Slope by the end of 2022, with no firm date set.

“We’re planning on upgrading equipment at our existing sites but will continue to work with our industry partners to determine if any new sites will be necessary in the future,” he adds.

The industrial applications of 5G include “Internet of Things” connections to sensors on critical equipment, which currently must be physically visited by workers. High-definition video cameras would also allow real-time awareness of remote sites without trips to the field. GCI also gives the example of a worker using augmented reality glasses to visualize data or even communicate with an expert from anywhere in the world.

Helmericks calls 5G a “game changer” for Alaska’s oil patch.

The current extent of GCI wireless service in the Prudhoe Bay area. LTE, or Long-Term Evolution, is considered the fourth generation of wireless broadband standards.


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