With its unbroken, beautiful wilderness, Alaska is a sight to see. Alaska accounts for around 17% of the total land area in the United States but boasts only around 730,000 residents. This fact and being disconnected from mainland USA results in sparse cell phone coverage from the big three carriers. Since the big USA networks are only now building infrastructure in earnest in Alaska, there is a local alternative that does a great job. GCI, Alaska’s local cellular network, provides the best cell phone coverage in the area. GCI is the way to go for Alaskan residents.
Before you decide what plan to go with, check out our guide on how to choose the best phone plan that works for you!
Our research found that GCI, AT&T, and Cricket Wireless are the top three for the best phone coverage in Alaska. This article features detailed information on the following:
This coverage photo tells a very different story than what we see in the continental United States. Alaska’s high-speed data coverage is very low from major and local networks because of Alaska’s big stretches of low to no-population areas. Building the infrastructure to better cover Alaska, through its many miles of unbroken nature, would be very expensive and not affect that many people.
Verizon and AT&T have built their networks around the state's most populated regions, and GCI, the local carrier, has coverage in those areas while building more towers in towns and other higher-traffic areas. GCI provides the best cell phone coverage in Alaska, and because it is a local carrier, it dedicates all its efforts to making the best network possible in Alaska. If you live in Alaska, GCI is the way to go.
That being said, AT&T also has a solid network in the area, and users can roam on GCI’s network, albeit at slower speeds. Verizon and T-Mobile have similar agreements but do not provide as good base coverage as AT&T. To put it in perspective, Verizon covers about 2% of the total area of Alaska, and AT&T covers about 11%. Let’s jump into Alaska's best cell phone coverage through local and national cell phone carriers.
The top three carriers in Alaska are GCI, AT&T, and Cricket Wireless.
The following section is the best cell phone coverage in Alaska geared towards people living there or making an extended stay. If you are visiting Alaska, your carrier’s roaming agreement will get you data during your travels whenever there is data to be had. Your data will likely be slower than you are used to where you live, but you will have service in Anchorage and Juneau, along with numerous towns and highways.
GCI is your best bet for Alaskan cell phone coverage if you are moving to or living in Alaska. Their coverage far surpasses the major networks that have taken up residence there, and they offer great deals on a lot of high-speed data that will let you keep service in all of the major areas of the state. Let’s look at what GCI has to offer. With the popularity of eSIM phones and dual-SIM devices, an inexpensive GCI plan as a second line on your phone is a great way to get the best cell phone coverage in Alaska.
GCI is a telecommunications network in Alaska that’s been working for over 40 years to provide service and connectivity to the populated and more remote parts of the country. While the bulk of their network resides in Alaska, they have roaming agreements with major networks, so their cell phones continue to function in the wider United States. GCI boasts coverage to 97% of Alaskans as they have focused their efforts in the population centers of this large state. Even though their coverage map looks pretty empty, it bears reminding that a lot of that space is untouched wilderness.
Since GCI is a small network (relative to major wireless networks in the USA) they are constantly improving and servicing the towers and access points on their network to provide the best service possible. With 100% of their focus on this state, it is no surprise that they are a clear winner for the best cell phone coverage in Alaska.
Plan: GCI has four postpaid plans along with numerous prepaid plans ranging in price from $60 to $95 a month before multi-line savings.
GCI is currently outputting a 5G network in Alaska that works in tandem with their 4G LTE network. GCI’s cell phone plans are as follows:
GCI’s multi-line savings are slightly different from the other major networks. For example, a three-line GCI Peak plan costs the account holder $140 a month, paying $70 for line one, $50 for line two, and $20 for line three. This differs from AT&T’s model, where a single-line plan is $65 a line, and a two-line plan pays $60 for each line, bringing the total to $120.
GCI’s cell phone plans offer two types of data: Unlimited Market Full-Speed data and Extended Market data. You can find more information about what areas are unlimited and what are extended markets on their website, but the unlimited market is generally their higher-population density areas, and the extended market is the less populated areas of Alaska.
Unlimited Market Full-Speed Data is similar to “premium data” from the major wireless networks. When your plan has this data, you will receive the highest possible data speeds from GCI, no matter where you are.
Extended Market Data is subject to slowdowns if the network is overly stressed at a given time. A plan’s Extended Market data is expended when users are in Extended Market areas, and if you use more than your plan’s data allocation, your speeds when in these areas, are reduced to 128 Kbps.
There are a few more differences between the plans, like the top two tiers offering free calling and texting to Canada and Mexico as well as Super HD streaming when on a mobile network. All of these plans offer the same excellent coverage, letting you choose based on how you use your phone. If you are always in their Unlimited Market areas, the cheaper plans will serve you well, as even in Juneau, Alaskans do not report many data slow-downs during the year. There are reports of spotty GCI coverage in rural areas where AT&T provides better coverage.
Even though AT&T’s network only covers 11% of Alaska’s total area, they provide service that rivals what GCI offers. AT&T has put more time and energy in creating a network that Alaskan residents can enjoy. It has a way to go before it gives the best cell phone coverage in Alaska, but AT&T is working to make it happen.
Plan: AT&T offers three unlimited plans at various prices. Their price is comparable to the plans at GCI.
AT&T offers three unlimited plans.
Like Verizon, AT&T’s unlimited plans start at a high price point and become much more affordable with the addition of new lines. With three cell phone plans, AT&T has a basic plan with new bells and whistles, a medium plan, and a premium plan with many extras.
The network itself proves the most problematic for Alaskan travelers. As per their coverage map, lots of Alaskan areas are completely devoid of the network, and many others lie on the far edge of AT&T’s network. Those edges create a lot of unreliable connections, where lots of AT&T users note dead spots and spotty coverage in rural areas. Living in the continental United States, many are used to strong coverage during their day-to-day. Living in Alaska, AT&T can deliver that…up to a point.
If you are thinking that this coverage map looks familiar — You’re right! Cricket operates through AT&T’s mobile network, so you will receive the same coverage throughout Alaska as you would with the major wireless carrier.
Plan: Cricket Wireless has four plans, two of which provide unlimited high-speed data and two that provide limited data.
Cricket Wireless's four plans, for one line, are as follows:
While the base pricing of Cricket’s plans is rather pricey, the company provides excellent multi-line savings.
These multi-line savings are what really draws us to their service. Cricket is one of the more expensive MVNOs, but they provide unlimited high-speed data with their two more expensive plans, justifying the cost in our eyes. As they work on AT&T’s network, you can rest assured that Cricket’s service in Alaska is one of the best.
GCI is the most significant local carrier in Alaska, providing its residents with the best cell phone coverage. With the ubiquitousness of the big three carriers, it is rare for local networks to remain operational. Alaska’s disconnection from the mainland United States (and its size) left it much less developed than the rest of the country. Even Hawaii, separated by an ocean from the States, has near-complete coverage on its islands. While the networks are not as reliable as they are in the states, they will grant fair coverage in this state.
Their MVNOs are options as well. If you have Verizon, T-Mobile, or an MVNO that operates on one of their networks, you will receive fair coverage in Alaska. GCI or AT&T is your best bet for the best cell phone coverage.
Every network has some coverage in Alaska, but GCI is the best network, followed by AT&T and the other two major networks lagging behind.
Yes! While AT&T’s Alaskan network only covers a fraction of the state’s total area, they have placed it purposely to serve as many Alaskans and travelers as possible.
Due to the large swathes of nature in Alaska, there are many spots where cell phones do not have a signal. That being said, GCI and AT&T have created robust networks in the populated areas of the state. You can check GCI’s coverage map for more information on the best cell phone coverage in Alaska.
Yes! While Verizon’s Alaskan network is not as big as GCI’s, they do have a strong presence. If you are in Alaska with a Verizon phone, expect spotty coverage the further you get from the beaten path.
Use really.com to compare!
Alaska is a beautiful place to live and vacation. GCI and AT&T provide the best cell phone coverage, bringing as many Alaskans and travelers under their coverage net as possible. That being said, there are huge swaths of the wilderness where no signal is available. Undergo serious preparations before venturing into any area without cell service. If you want more info about plans available in Alaska, you can compare carriers at Really.com to decide which phone carrier is best for you.