T-Mobile’s Neville Ray extols 14x network capacity increase

Chris Pearson is president of 5G Americas, so you can expect that he would be stoked about 5G. Kicking off yesterday's sessions of the Big 5G Event in Denver, he said there are 178 global, commercial 5G deployments, so far. And by the end of the year there will be at 274. He also said 5G deployments are accelerating, and between 2018 and 2020 in the U.S. about 68,000 cell sites were turned on. That brings the cell site total to 417,215 in 2020 in the U.S. It should be noted these sites are not specific to 5G, since a cell site will support other technologies like 4G LTE as well.

After Pearson’s presentation, T-Mobile’s President of Technology Neville Ray gave an update on the carrier’s 5G deployments.

Ray said one of the most exciting things about the carrier's network is all the new capacity. He said that’s largely thanks to Sprint’s spectrum. If you compare what T-Mobile could do before the Sprint spectrum with what the New T-Mobile can do by 2025 – it’s a 14-times multiple. “We’ve never seen that type of capacity leap,” he said.

Ray went on to tout T-Mobile’s usual talking point about having a layer cake of low-band, mid-band and high-band spectrum, saying T-Mobile’s multi-layer spectrum strategy has become the “defacto model across the globe.”

Of its low-band spectrum, Ray said, “We were one of the first companies to drive 5G into FDD low-band — 600 MHz for us.” T-Mobile covers 1.7 million square miles out of over 3 million square miles in the U.S. with its low-band spectrum. “That 1.7 is more than the footprint of AT&T and Verizon combined,” he said. He also said the spectrum is not shared between 4G and 5G via dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS).

Ray noted that it’s been about 18 months since T-Mobile purchased Sprint and began deploying Sprint’s valuable 2.5 GHz mid-band spectrum. “The mid-band layer is where we add real depth,” he said. “Today we cover 165 million people with that mid-band 5G. We have 60-80 MHz deployed now and are targeting 100 MHz by the end of this year. We will have 200 million people covered by the end of this year with that layer.”

In the low-band Ray said T-Mobile is seeing speeds north of 100 Mbps, and in mid-band it’s seeing speeds of 300-400 Mbps on average with gigabit peaks. 

Finally, T-Mobile is also deploying high-band mmWave 5G in venues, stadiums and the like to top off its layer cake. Ray said mmWave has “never been the foundational part of our strategy.”

Overall, T-Mobile is “upgrading hundreds of sites” every week, he said.

Fixed wireless access

T-Mobile is also aggressively attacking the home broadband market. Ray said, “We’re in a position to do that with the capacity of this 5G network.” T-Mobile has said its target is to address 7-8 million homes with fixed wireless access (FWA) within the next five years.

The carrier’s plan includes bringing 5G into small towns and rural America and competing against cable and telcos in market areas that are underserved.

RELATED: T-Mobile sees 2 categories of fixed wireless opportunity

Speaking at a FierceWireless 5G virtual event this summer, Kaley Gagnon, VP of emerging products at T-Mobile, said there are also a synchronicity of events that are propelling FWA — the pandemic and government funding. “We’re all living in this right now, and so thinking of waiting multiple years for access to high-speed internet choices, I think we’ve got some great winds at our back right here,” said Gagnon.

She also noted that fixed wireless deployments are relatively quick and inexpensive compared to wired broadband deployments.