Problems with LTE roaming on GCI in Alaska


    I’m a frequent traveler to Alaska and have always enjoyed the seamless LTE roaming on GCI with no domestic data limits.


    Up until late 2017, I typically experienced LTE speeds on GCI in the range of 10-20mbps downlink, however something has changed in the past few months.


    Speeds are now typically maxed out at 1-3mbps downlink on LTE and 3-5mbps downlink on HSPA, and somewhat higher on the uplink side (which is strange). This is true both in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and other areas such as the Kenai Peninsula.


    Has something changed with the roaming agreement with GCI, or could there be some other problems. I’ve talked to some other T-Mobile users up here as well and they report similar problems.


    I have one friend who has native GCI service and he is still experiencing faster LTE speeds, so I do not believe that the overall GCI network is slowing down. I believe the issue is happening somewhere in between GCI and T-Mobile.


    Why are my LTE speeds slower than HSPA, and why is the uplink generally faster than the downlink?


    Are there any other Alaska roamers in the community that can share their experiences?


    Is this something that T-Mobile could investigate or check into?



      All replies

      • tmo_marissa

        Hmmm -- it may be a shift in the roaming agreement, those partnerships and particulars do change from time to time. The best way to get this question in front of the folks who know would be to Contact Us and work with our Tech team to file a ticket for roaming coverage. If this is outside of our current expected speeds for the roaming partnership; they'll be able to get that passed to engineers for review!

        • nps-ca

          Re: Problems with LTE roaming on GCI in Alaska

          Nope - isn't that.  I still get 10Mb/+ in SOME areas.  GCI is not shaping traffic/throttling - though roaming users are lower priority.


          Issue is GCI is saturated at many sites due to uptake of users on their network and them moving most of the legacy CDMA users to their LTE network now.  At some point GCI will add more backhaul (e.g. more bandwidth) to the sites in question and sector splits due to frequency bandwidth.


          A telltale way to see if this is the issue is on a speedtest if the download speed is low, but upload is HIGH then the site is RF/frequency saturated and GCI really needs to look at adding more spectrum (if they have it) and/or splitting the sector (like T-Mobile has been doing on their densify).  Really they need to add Carrier aggregation (see below)


          If you get low speeds for upload as well then it's purely backhaul to the site.


          Much of rural Alaska is microwave backhaul/RF - larger towns is a mix of Fiber and some T1.  The T1 sites are the bigger issue as GCI hasn't invested in fiber to all sites.  So e.g. midtown Anchorage is good or bad depending on which sites you are utilizing.  They also don't see to have carrier aggregation fully turned on with GCI - THAT alone is causing most issues. (this is where your phone will use multiple frequency bands together to get higher data throughput)


          Side note: I have a SkyRoam Hotspot for Intl travel when I need to go beyond the free Simple Roaming/Intl Roaming data speeds.  This device DOES work in Alaska and roams on the Death Star (sorry won't call out their name - look at the network with a logo like a death star) - You can add a day pass bundle for $9 a day once you've invested in the HW device.   I use this RARELY in AK - like in Denali I find the coverage on Death Start better than GCI and for $9 a day I get 500MB full speed and if needed throttled that's higher than TMO's AT&T throttling.  Again RARELY use it - 8 days in Alaska and I may have a day or two I use it - find GCI OK for the rest (acceptable - not great)