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5G

Neville Ray explains T-Mobile's near-term 5G opportunities

BIG 5G EVENT, DENVER – T-Mobile's networking chief Neville Ray said that the operator is working to profit from 5G via three distinct strategies: fixed wireless access, rural expansions and a new focus on business customers.

Ray's comments, made during a virtual appearance here at the Big 5G Event, help to underscore the reasoning behind T-Mobile's $26 billion purchase of Sprint and its resulting five-year, $60 billion plan to upgrade its network to 5G.

Specifically, Ray said that T-Mobile's network capacity will increase by a factor of 14, thanks to the combination of its spectrum holdings with Sprint's spectrum holdings via an upgrade to 5G network technology. With that additional capacity, he said T-Mobile will be able to expand into a number of new areas, including fixed wireless Internet services.

"We're aggressively attacking the home broadband market," he said, explaining that the capacity available through 5G is essential to that effort. "We could do that very marginally from an LTE perspective," he added.

Within the next five years, T-Mobile has said it expects to gain between 7 million and 8 million fixed wireless Internet customers. The operator's new offering costs $60 per month, promises download speeds around 100 Mbit/s and does not cap customers' monthly usage.

Rural and business

Separately, Ray said that T-Mobile's 5G efforts will also allow it to expand its services into rural areas. "We are going to take 5G into small-town rural America," he said. "That's a huge opportunity for us."

T-Mobile has previously discussed its efforts to expand its network and marketing into rural areas. And though the effort isn't necessarily contingent on the network capacity provided by 5G, T-Mobile will undoubtedly rely on its 5G marketing campaign to cut into its rivals' market share in rural areas.

Finally, Ray said T-Mobile would use its 5G network to boost its sales with business customers. "Those businesses, they want to future-proof their buying decisions," he said, noting that top-level executives have been asking about 5G services and coverage when considering their wireless purchasing decisions. He said that T-Mobile's 5G network, powered in part by Sprint's midband 2.5GHz spectrum, would appeal to business customers.

But those aren't T-Mobile's only 5G opportunities, Ray explained. Further out, he suggested the operator could benefit from a wide range of 5G-powered services, from video conferencing to virtual reality to driverless cars.

"I think we have so much to deliver on 5G," he said.

Interestingly, Ray said that he is personally interested in how 5G might power wearable devices. "The world around you is going to be brought to you through great AR and VR experiences," he said of such future devices. "There is just an enormous opportunity."

A question of 6G

But Ray declined to speculate much on the landscape beyond 5G, including 6G. "I think that one is a ways off," he said in response to a question about the technology. "I think 6G is many, many years away."

Ray's comments are noteworthy considering T-Mobile is one of the companies backing the Next G Alliance, which is working to develop a cohesive North American rollout process for 6G. The group hosted a daylong event this week at the Big 5G Event, and featured Mike Irizarry of UScellular as its keynote speaker.

"6G will be about connecting pretty much anything you can imagine to the Internet," Irizarry said during his own virtual keynote appearance. "It's really an exciting time to look forward to."

Finally, during his keynote appearance, T-Mobile's Ray addressed questions about the recent hack into the operator's network. "We have more work to do," Ray said of the situation, while also detailing all the steps the operator has taken so far to improve its systems and aid customers who have had their personal data stolen. "It's the world we live in today, unfortunately. But that's no excuse."

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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