Mobile phone users on GCI’s network have been experiencing some hiccups in two separate areas of western Alaska, but from unrelated problems.
Cellular customers in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta lost 2G service—simple text and voice call capabilities—due to a connection failure in Bethel Monday, where cellular signals from throughout the region converge. But Bethel itself uses a 3G network—a generally faster service capable of transmitting more data like mobile internet—and so Bethel’s own cell network was unaffected.
GCI spokesperson David Morris said the issue cropped up due to a connector failing in the central switch that handles calls. He said 2G service was restored Tuesday.
But 2G service remains down in Gambell on St. Lawrence Island as of Thursday, where a cell service blackout has been going on since Tuesday morning. Service in nearby Savoonga appears to be unaffected.
Morris said important equipment was fried during an electrical surge sometimes early Tuesday.
“There must have been some type of power surge originating from a streetlight that’s located near the CO, or central office, which effectively is the brains of the telephone network,” Morris said. “That induced some type of significant power surge that must have damaged all the equipment there.”
Morris said technicians were en route to Gambell Thursday but there was no firm timeline for when cell service would be restored. “We [are] currently in the process of going out to Gambell with replacement gear and then hopefully it will be a quick fix after that.”
While GCI is moving quickly to address its 2G service interruptions in the YK Delta and Gambell, Morris says the much-touted 3G service for Nome has been delayed, but should be switched on before the end of the year.
“It looks like it may slip a month,” he said, referring to the launch date that had pegged mid-November for the opening of 3G service. “We just need to get all the equipment in place. There’s no particular reason other than just the amount of time it takes to get these thing on.”
In addition to Nome, Morris said GCI is trying to roll out 3G service in a number of other communities, including nine around Bethel, as well as Unalakleet, Kotzebue, Sand Point, and King Salmon.