Will My Cell Phone Work in Alaska?

If you are planning on moving to Alaska, you should be educated and aware of changes you will need to make to your lifestyle. One such likely change will be your cell phone service plan, since many Alaskan cell phone providers are unfortunately behind the times when compared to most of the country. Many wireless network customers currently experience delays when they are using their phone for multimedia purposes. Thankfully, new, more convenient options are now arising for residents currently relocating to the state.

Recent Developments

Earlier this month, General Communication, Inc., or GCI, launched 4G service in the Anchorage region of Alaska. This allows GCI wireless subscribers to have access to the fastest network statewide for their information and entertainment needs. With this technology, Alaskans are able to use the Internet, stream videos and more at suitable speeds that are more than ten times faster than other present network speeds. By the end of the year, GCI plans to launch 4G service in several locations in Alaska. Many other regions will at least be updated to 3G speeds. To participate in the network, residents need a 4G compatible phone, as well as GCI’s new SIM card and an appropriate data plan.

Cell Phone Provider Options

The cell phone provider you choose when moving to Alaska may very much depend on the region you will call home. The largest cell phone provider in the state is Alaska Communications System or ACS. Their coverage applies to residents who are moving to locations such as Juneau, Prudhoe Bay, Fairbanks and other centralized regions. Other benefits of ACS include landline telephone service and high-speed Internet. Also included in the plan are unlimited mobile to mobile calls, along with free nights and weekend calling.

Another major provider is Alaska Digitel, which covers many of the same regions as ACS. However, only cellular phone service is offered. As a positive tradeoff, plans are more inexpensive and offer more monthly minutes. However, unlimited mobile to mobile calls are not offered, nor are free nights and weekend calls. However, in-state long distance is permitted. The third option is Alaska Wireless, LLC. This location only offers service to the Dutch Harbor area, with expensive plans and a low number of monthly minutes. For a small fee, customers may roam on other providers’ networks both in Alaska and nationwide.

Limitations of Carriers and Coverage

Potential Alaska residents should also be aware that not every carrier offers every phone. The four biggest carriers statewide are Sprint Nextel, Cingular Wireless, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile. Check their websites for coverage maps that will show if your preferred provider and phone matches the area in which you will live. There are also independent sites that track customer complaints about areas with unreliable cellular coverage.

Customers should also take advantage of the fact that most carriers will offer a trial period for the phone you choose. This will allow you to evaluate the reception you receive at home, in the office and during travel. Be fully aware of the company’s trial period and return policies before signing a contract, as terms can be stringent.

Be aware that when purchasing a data plan, you have the option of paying for messaging and data use separately. If you won’t be moving much data, you could save money, though you may be charged a higher rate. Some carriers bundle voice and data plans as one, though others will allow you to separate the two. Many carriers will describe their plan as unlimited, though it is wise to read the fine print of how they define that term.

Other Options

For those that would rather not sign a contract with any of the major service providers in Alaska, there is also the option of a prepaid phone. Prepaid phones have often received a negative reception, due to the fact that they have been seen as a last resort for those without the best credit ratings. However, those who are tired of two-year contracts, issues over use of minutes and overage fees may find this to be the right choice after they make the move. Not to mention that prepaid costs are now lower than ever before. When a customer runs out of minutes, they may either pay for more or let the plan expire if they wish to switch carriers or cancel service

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