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Wireless Initiatives

GCI leverages drones and high-tech 3D modeling to support remote wireless towers

Alaska Remote Imaging uses drones, lidar to create highly detailed, immersive digital walkthroughs

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — More than a simple car ride away, traveling to some of the most-remote of GCI’s hundreds of wireless sites can take days and, sometimes, a little creativity. When a wireless site needs work, effective planning and preparation are key because timely transit to and from the site is no guarantee. Thanks to high-tech drone imagery and 3D modeling, GCI’s technicians are equipped with the right tools, hardware and information before traveling.

Using special scanners and drone technology, GCI contractor Alaska Remote Imaging creates immersive digital walkthrough experiences for many of GCI’s wireless sites. These virtual walkthroughs provide an incredible amount of easily accessible detail that enables GCI to be better prepared before teams are sent into the field.

“We can access shelters and ascend towers virtually from the comfort and safety of our desks and smartphones and do anything from measuring tower components to reading serial numbers of equipment that may need servicing or replacement,” said GCI Senior Staff Program Manager Chris Galipeau. “This new, easily accessible wealth of information is especially valuable to our engineering teams that are now using the data to plan solutions and equipment configurations necessary to upgrade our wireless systems in these remote communities many months in advance.”

Combining drones with new Matterport scanners and light detection and ranging, commonly known as lidar, Alaska Remote Imaging can gather survey-grade information with minimal time on the ground.

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An easy-to-access interface enables GCI crews to gather crucial information prior to sending technicians into the field.

“This year we upgraded our drone fleet to models that are capable of flying in inclement weather and equipped with powerful zoom lenses that allow us to gather crucial details from safe distances,” said Alaska Remote Imaging Managing Principal Matt Gutacker. “With all the new available information, it was also important that we make that information easier to access. Now, GCI crews can access these virtual walkthroughs from their laptops or smartphones without specialized software as may have been the case in previous years.”

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3D drone modeling allows for a better understanding of environmental conditions and site planning.

GCI has invested more than $4 billion in its statewide network. With more than 97% of Alaskans living within GCI’s network footprint, the ability to more efficiently maintain the company’s wireless infrastructure is more important than ever before.

GCI was the first provider to launch 5G service in Alaska when it turned up 5G wireless service in Anchorage in 2020. The company is in the midst of an aggressive wireless buildout that’s focused on expanding its 5G footprint across the state. In 2023, GCI has launched new 5G service in Nome, Kotzebue, Unalaska, Kodiak, Valdez and Talkeetna and expanded its existing 5G footprint in Juneau, Fairbanks and the Mat-Su. GCI currently offers 5G mobile service in more than a dozen Alaska communities.

For more information about GCI’s wireless network, visit https://www.gci.com/mobile/5g.

About GCI

Headquartered in Alaska, GCI provides data, mobile, video, voice and managed services to consumer, business, government, and carrier customers throughout Alaska, serving more than 200 communities. The company has invested more than $4 billion in its Alaska network and facilities over the past 40 years and recently launched true standards-based 5G NR service in Anchorage, now the nation’s northernmost 5G service area. Learn more about GCI at www.gci.com. GCI is a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Broadband Corporation (Nasdaq: LBRDA, LBRDK, LBRDP). Learn more about Liberty Broadband at http://www.libertybroadband.com.