T-Mobile’s Neville Ray unveils 5G venture capital fund, talks FWA

Speaking at the CCA virtual event today, T-Mobile President of Technology Neville Ray said the carrier has created T-Mobile Ventures, a new multi-year, multi-million-dollar investment fund to fuel 5G innovation. The fund will back early and emerging growth companies that are innovating 5G products and services for the T-Mobile network.

T-Mobile Ventures is working with the corporate venture capital firm Touchdown Ventures to help manage the fund. Areas of initial focus will include edge computing, network security, work-from-home technologies, and IoT technology for connected devices and sensors.

At his CCA presentation, Ray also touched on fixed wireless access (FWA).

T-Mobile recently announced that it is expanding its LTE fixed wireless access pilot to more than 20 million households in parts of 450 cities and towns. The company’s public relations team was quick to capitalize on the fact that AT&T recently said it was no longer accepting new orders for its copper-based DSL service as of October 1. 

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FWA looks like a promising technology to bridge the digital divide and bring decent broadband speeds to rural and unserved areas in the United States. T-Mobile and Verizon have both made announcements about FWA in recent weeks.

Today Ray said, “As we look ahead at driving competition, one of our major focuses is on fixed broadband. Today this is one of the most uncompetitive industries in America. Across the U.S., and in rural areas in particular, people lack options, and millions of folks are suffering from high prices and no choice. We’re going to change that.”

He said T-Mobile now has the spectrum capacity to reach all corners of the U.S., referring to the carrier’s 600 MHz spectrum as well as the new 2.5 GHz spectrum it got from Sprint. “That opens up a huge opportunity in fixed wireless that we’re going after in a big way,” said Ray. “We’ve already started with LTE. We’re now gearing up to launch 5G Home Internet with the goal of covering more than 50% of U.S. households within six years.”

While T-Mobile is spinning its FWA aspirations as a service to help close the digital divide, the fact is, the company made commitments to cover rural areas as part of its deal to buy Sprint. It pledged to cover more than half of U.S. households with 5G broadband service, promising speeds above 100 Mbps, by 2024.

But Ray also acknowledged the opportunity of FWA to encroach on the footprints of cable and telco competitors. “We can’t wait to break pain points for customers and to provide a desperately needed alternative to the incumbent cable and telco ISPs,” he said.


It won’t just be the big carriers who are jumping on FWA. CCA President and CEO Steven Berry said a lot of CCA members bought CBRS priority access licenses (PALs) for counties in their footprint, and the spectrum will be used by these operators to roll out FWA.

RELATED: CCA president discusses open RAN, Huawei issues and CBRS

“Fixed wireless access from a stationary fixed facility is a great way to serve more remote communities,” said Berry. “They’re moving fast to FWA because CBRS allows them that capacity.” He added that there is already CBRS equipment ready to go, including antennas and switches.