T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said he is very excited to see the FCC publicly support the proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, but he admitted that two hurdles still exist. One is opposition at the Department of Justice and the other is a lawsuit by the State Attorneys General. Ray gave a keynote address at the Connectivity Expo yesterday in Orlando, Florida.
“We are delighted to see their support become public news. Obviously, we have work to do with DoJ and the State Attorneys General. We are very optimistic about the approval of this transaction,” Ray said.
In a prepared statement on May 20, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said he would recommend to the other commissioners that the FCC approve the merger, in light of the commitments made by the carriers.
Ray defended the merger as being pro-competitive and good for 5G. Noting that the United States currently only has two “full scale” competitors, Ray said the merger would actually increase competition by adding a third. The merger will also not result in layoffs, he said, adding 11,000 jobs. T-Mobile will go from 100 megahertz up to 300 megahertz of spectrum (excluding millimeter wave). Through supply and demand economics, the huge combined Sprint/T-Mobile spectrum cache plus 5G spectral efficiency will quantumly increase its system capacity, which help the New T-Mobile lower prices.
“The capacity that Sprint and T-Mobile can provide today, by 2024, will see a multiplier of 5X. That massive volume of supply flowing into the market is what will allow the New T-Mobile to drive prices south,” Ray said. “That has been an important point as we have built our case with the DoJ and the FCC as to what happens to the U.S. consumer.”
Sprint and T-Mobile have given regulators assurances on networks speeds in the region of 100 megabits per second compared to 10s Mbps today. They also committed to deploying a 5G network that would cover 97 percent of the nation’s population within three years of the closing of the merger and 99 percent of Americans within six years, which seem to especially please Chairman Pai.
“Two of the FCC’s top priorities are closing the digital divide in rural America and advancing United States leadership in 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity. The commitments made today by T- Mobile and Sprint would substantially advance each of these critical objectives,” he wrote.
The 5G network would reach 85 percent of rural Americans within three years and 90 percent within six years. Access to mobile broadband speeds of 100 Mbps would reach 90 percent of Americans and 99 percent would have access to speeds of at least 50 Mbps, according to the carriers’ commitments.
“We have made a very meaningful commitment to the regulatory authorities, backed up with real monetary penalties if we fail to meet our commitments,” Ray said.
The pairing of T-Mobile and Sprint will create a cache of spectrum assets in the low-band, mid-band and millimeter-wave band that other carriers cannot match, although he noted that high band spectrum still needs work.
“It is critical in 5G to have all these bands of spectrum,” Ray said. “Millimeter wave and high band spectrum for use in dense, urban environments are beginning to be launched. They are having a tough time right now. Millimeter wave has a lot of growth and potential, but the networks are not ready for prime time. I am building millimeter way, and I would not launch it for my customers right now. The experience is too spotty and too intermittent. We will bring millimeter wave to market, but it is a limited play.”
T-Mobile is currently rolling out its network in the 600 MHz band across the country. It has 40 megahertz of spectrum in many rural areas.
“We are building a four-lane 5G highway across the United States in low band. The speeds will be remarkable especially when paired with 4G spectrum,” Ray said.
Carriers in China, Korea and other places around world are are deploying 5G on mid-band spectrum, which provides more mobility than millimeter wave and greater capacity than low band.
“This is the issue that is facing the United States. They are building a depth of experience, helping them speed the pace of 5G deployment,” Ray said.