Neville Ray talks T-Mobile 5G and his network playbook


Neville Ray appeared on a Wells Fargo Virtual 5G Forum this week took the opportunity to talk a bit about T-Mobile’s network.

First up, T-Mobile’s president of technology unsurprisingly touched a bit more on the major outage that T-Mo suffered this week. Ray reaffirmed that it was triggered by a fiber outage that then was compounted by a couple other issues, resulting in capacity issues in the core architecture that stopped phones from completing VoLTE calls.

Ray also revealed that T-Mobile addressed the problem by adding a lot of capacity on the fly. Earlier this week, he said that T-Mo has added more permanent safeguards to prevent this type of outage from happening again.

“It’s not good enough from us. A lot of third-parties involved but it’s our network and it’s our service and it’s what our customers come to us for,” Ray said. “We have to do better.”

Ray also touched on T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint, saying that T-Mo gained an “outstanding” wealth of spectrum assets from the deal. That includes 2.5GHz spectrum that T-Mobile is using for 5G in places like New York City and Philadelphia, where it’s seeing gigabit peak speeds and average speeds of 300-400Mbps.

Ray then revealed his 5G playbook for the future. “My playbook is simply to get as much 600 and 2.5 rolled out as is humanly possible this year and next,” he explained. “This year is going to be big for us.”

It was also confirmed that the Keep Americans Connected Pledge and the 600MHz spectrum that T-Mobile borrowed as part of it is winding down at the end of this month, but that T-Mo struck a deal with Columbia Capital on long-term lease of 600MHz.

Keeping with the 5G theme, Ray talked a bit about rollouts both abroad and from competition in the US. He said that China and South Korea are doing great work with 5G and that “we have a lot of work to do” in the US.

And of course, he had to take a shot or two at AT&T and Verizon. “We now have more mmWave spectrum than AT&T”, Ray said, adding that mmWave is good as backhaul and that T-Mobile will continue to evaluate its options with that high-band spectrum. T-Mo offers mmWave 5G in parts of 6 cities: New York City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Dallas, Cleveland, and Atlanta.

Ray also noted that mmWave could be useful as a fixed broadband replacement, something that Verizon has been using it for.

The T-Mobile exec also touched a bit on the FCC’s upcoming C-band spectrum auction, which is scheduled for December. “I think these guys are going to muster everything they can from their balance sheets to go to war on C-band. They have no choice,” Ray said of AT&T and Verizon. As for T-Mobile, “We’ll evaluate where we are,” he said, adding that “C-band is an interesting opportunity” and that “we’ve got decisions to make.”

Source: T-Mobile

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  • Jay Holm

    Reality tells us that his playbook involves going TEN WEEKS+ since the merger closed and still… only NYC and Philly have Band 41 5G… that’s it!!! 10 weeks is a very long time not to announce any new deployments.

    • Shaun Michalak

      The problems I have with your comment are like this.. First, most of the deployed 5G was done before the merger, while they were there doing other updates at that time.. So it was not from scratch type of work.. They were already up there.. the next problem lies with.. are they having any problems with getting hardware, or work done, with all the shut downs because of COVID?.. last thing.. They say that it can take months to install new stuff like that, from scratch, from start to turned on.. With that being said, it takes time to put the orders out, get the work done, etc.. and since they could not legally use the spectrum until the merger is complete.. well, that put them in a bind from doing too much ahead of time. All of things things put things on hold or delay the installation of it..

      You also have to take into consideration.. Are they collecting data on how good things are working, and working out any bugs in those areas, before they continue on to other areas?

      • marque2

        Basically they have to “bribe” local politicians and bureaucrats with forms, fees, and promises before they can start adding new stuff – even to existing antennas.

        It can take months to get the paperwork in place for a one hour upgrade.

        • Shaun Michalak

          Yea.. Bribes also help too.. lol

  • Glenn Gore

    It is difficult managing all the various 5G rollouts, especially during a pandemic. T-Mobile made a big splash back in December with the launch of Band 71 5G but has not expanded that to any great degree since then, and the data numbers it is providing are pitiful in a lot of locations. Millimeter-wave 5G has not been expanded much at all either, but that is understandable given the outdoors-only capability of that spectrum in an age when people are not outdoors much any more. That leaves Band 41, which T-Mobile only got control of a month or so ago, not much time to actually do much, hence the small number of places it is now in use.

    T-Mobile is going to have to balance utility with capability and coverage going forward. Band 71 offers great coverage but no better data than with LTE+. Millimeter wave offers astronomical data but unusable coverage. Band 41 offers a bit of both, but it remains to be seen how useful it is for widespread coverage and great data at the same time. The promises of self-driving cars, telemedicine, etc can’t be done with Band 71 because it can’t provide enough data. Those promised features can’t be done with millimeter-wave because the signal can’t pass through anything. Band 41 is still a big question mark. A lot still remains to be seen regarding 5G’s utility and promise.

  • mikeZo6

    John bailed out already and Ray bailing July 1st
    part of merge should have been they cant leave til 5G completed 2024 !
    no accountability at all now

    • Nate

      The CFO is retiring July 1st, his name is Braxton Carter.

      • mikeZo6

        All Top
        Tmo leaving very soon