High-speed internet available to Nome customers
In late October of 2017, Quintillion announced the completion of the Alaska subsea fiber optic cable system. On December 2, 2017, the New York Times covered the advent of high-speed fiber Internet in the Arctic, specifically in Point Hope and in Nome. Now, just over one year later, the flyers are finally out, the prices are listed, and the residents of Nome are able to access that high-speed Internet that has long been talked about.
In a joint press release that was supposed to be released on November 30, but postponed until Monday, Dec, 3, due to the earthquake, TelAlaska and Quintillion announced the news. “The two companies have been working together to develop a residential solution for the Norton Sound community, which has long been plagued by slow speeds and data restrictions. The new service will be delivered by TelAlaska over Quintillion’s subsea fiber optic cable system. Residents will have access to the internet at triple the currently available speeds and more than double the included data at prices that are competitive to what residents are paying now,” stated the release.
What kind of speeds are we looking at? The new speeds from TelAlaska start at 10M/1M , with the middle package at 15M/3M and the highest package at 25M/3M. What do those numbers mean? 10M/1M stands for 10 megabits per second (or Mbps) downloading speed and one Mbps uploading speed. Megabytes and gigabytes are used to measure a quantity of data to be stored or transmitted.
For example, downloading speed is directly related to how well videos can stream. TelAlaska described some examples of Internet capabilities for the Nome Nugget. “Video streaming services have become a popular choice for consumers and play a significant role in selecting the internet service plans that will best meet a households needs,” said Celine Kaplan, Marketing and Public Relations Manager with TelAlaska. “Netflix recommends 3Mbps for SD [standard definition] quality and 5Mbps for HD [high definition] for each video stream. Multiple smartphones, tablets, or smart TVs in a household can use these types of services at the same time requiring a higher download speed to support multiple video streams. Netflix estimates 1 gigabyte of data usage per hour for an SD quality video stream and 3 gigabytes for HD quality video stream. You can expect other video services to have similar requirements,” said Kaplan.
To put that into perspective, on the smallest TelAlaska plan you could watch the entire Game of Thrones series, from start to finish, in standard quality, and not go over your data. (Estimating approximately one hour per episode, 67 total episodes, and one full gigabyte used per hour.) But of course, one should consider how many devices are utilizing the network within the household.
Uploading speeds relate to how quickly one can attach files or photos to an email, or how quickly one can upload to a photo sharing site or cloud account, for example.
Another thing to note with the overall capacity of the new fiber network is that there are no limits. According to TelAlaska, an unlimited number of customers can be on the network at the same time. “Quintillion’s fiber optic network is currently configured for far more capacity than is expected to be required in Nome and can be expanded if necessary to meet demand,” said Kaplan.
So, we know it’s faster, but what’s it going to cost? The smallest package starts at $179 per month, for the 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload speed. Plus, that “small” package comes with a data cap of 170 gigabytes, which is huge when compared to TelAlaska’s previous plan offerings. The middle package is $249 per month with 15M/3M speed and a cap of 200 GB. The largest package is $329 per month with 25M/3M speed and a cap of 450 GB. Before, the “largest” plan with TelAlaska offered up to 100 gigabytes of data, but for more than triple the price, around $650. The new Internet plans are available to residential customers, as well as small businesses at that pricing.
While Nome residents within city limits are no strangers to faster Internet speeds – GCI has offered high-speed broadband Internet along with their cable television packages for quite some time – having even faster speeds as well as larger data caps makes the announcement from TelAlaska that much more exciting and gives the competition a run for their money.
Especially for area residents living outside of city limits and outside of GCI’s coverage area that have only been able to rely on slow DSL or satellite Internet options, the news of Quintillion’s partnership with TelAlaska is very welcome. However, not all of Nome’s outlying residents will be able to take advantage of the new fiber Internet. According to TelAlaska, the service is available in Triple Creek and Dexter but is likely not available along the Dexter Bypass Road or in Banner Creek. Nome residents should contact TelAlaska to verify availability in their location.
The Internet service is delivered over the local telephone lines so local phone service from TelAlaska is required. According to TelAlaska, if a customer does not have local phone service, installation will be required, including inside wiring if that is not already in place. A Wi-Fi router is required and will be provided at no cost by TelAlaska. Currently, TelAlaska is the only residential provider for the fiber network, although other carriers could buy into the Quintillion network. Nome Public Schools has been using the fiber network since spring of 2018 via the company DRS Technologies, which does not offer residential plans.
So the fiber is here, the speeds are faster, and the prices are not that bad, comparatively speaking. But, one might still ask why it took so long to get residential service to Nome. According to TelAlaska spokeswoman Celine Kaplan, Quintillion is a carrier’s carrier, which meant it took time to bring the right products to market, and to have the ability to serve all consumers and small business clients in Nome. Kaplan told the Nome Nugget, “TelAlaska was the logical partner, being the local provider, but figuring out the best way to do this so the Nome market and everyone involved benefited, took a little time… but we think together, we got it right and look forward to more innovative offerings in 2019.”