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.
Six weeks ago, few people knew there even was a Mobile Infrastructure Hall of Fame. But as WIA President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein took the stage for the first induction ceremony in a crowded room of 500 of the industry’s leaders, it felt like there has always been one. Or at least there was a pent-up demand for one.
“Today, these five honorees come from companies with a combined market cap of around $200 billion. They employ nearly 100,000 people and growing. And they’re driving the innovation economy with wireless broadband few dreamed possible in the flip phone era,” Adelstein said. “These five leaders are inducted tonight because of their foresight, their vision, and their tenacity. Each faced down challenges — and overcame them all.”
Gathering the top wireless CEOs and others at a ballroom in Washington D.C. on a Wednesday night in mid-November to honor its best had another altruistic goal. It raised $500 thousand for the WIA Foundation in support of training, education and apprenticeships.
“Tonight, the [inductees] lend us their presence because each believes — with us — that another challenge lies ahead for the wireless industry. To build world-class 5G networks — we need a world-class 5G workforce. Together, we’re taking steps to meet that challenge — building a workforce that’s worthy of this great industry,” Adelstein said.
The evening was attended by such notables as FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr, U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, and other guests from the FCC, Congress and the Administration.
The inaugural class of Hall of Fame inductees included: Neville Ray, CTO, T-Mobile; Steven Bernstein, founder, former CEO and current board member of SBA Communications; Steven Dodge, founder, former CEO, American Tower; John Kelly, former CEO, Crown Castle; and Jose Mas, CEO, MasTec Network Solutions.
John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile, lent his star power and sense of humor in a heartfelt tribute to Ray, who has 25 years of wireless experience and has led the carrier through the LTE roll out, from the zero POPs in 2012 to 324 million POPs today. The first 200 million POPs were built in six months. He also pushed new technology into the field, including Wi-Fi calling, VoLTE, License Assisted Access and 4X4 MIMO and 256 QAM.
“Neville Ray is truly a genius,” Legere said. “This is a guy that gets things done. You give him the goal and the resources, and you just know that it will be done. You get out of the way.” He joked that Ray’s budget of $50 billion also played a key role in the success. “Give the guy some cash and he makes it happen.” Ray later clarified that he only got $40 billion.
Jeffrey Stoops, president and CEO, SBA Communications, praised Bernstein’s decision-making ability and leadership qualities.
“He can quickly and incisively distill complex issues down to straightforward decisions has been a critical part of our success,” Stoops said. “More importantly, it’s his entrepreneurial spirit and his values, including honestly, integrity, fair play, quality, customer service and hard work, that Steve instilled in SBA that remains a driver of our continued growth and success.”
Jim Taiclet, chairman, president and CEO, American Tower, said Dodge has been a “true trailblazer” for the tower industry, and has served as innovator throughout his 40-year career, which included banking, media and telecom.
“He founded and took public three pioneering companies. The first was American Cable Systems, which he grew into an industry leading position and sold to Continental Cable. Then he went on to American Radio Systems, which was sold to CBS, and then American Tower Corporation. The only flaw in Steve’s plan was an apparent lack of creativity with company names.”
Ben Moreland, former CEO of Crown Castle, introduced Kelly as the “most wonderful person” he has ever known. Kelly served as a mentor to Moreland and “set a high bar as a humble leader and a really nice guy,” Moreland said. Kelly was CEO of Crown from 2001 to 2008 and remained on the board for a number of years afterward.
“He inspires people to be the best they can be,” Moreland said. “He instilled a very customer-centric focus that required us to always think about a win-win situation with the carriers.”
After Mas became CEO of MasTec, the company grew to 22,000 professionals nationwide, quadrupled its revenues, increased earnings six-fold, and reached a ranking of 428 in the Fortune 500, O’Rielly said in his introduction.
Additionally, Mas diversified MasTec beyond telecom construction into renewable energy, oil & gas and electric transmission, among others.
“Mr. Mas is not just as successful businessman. He is a long-time leader in the Miami-Dade United Way’s Toqueville Society, which donated $15 million to improve lives last year. Most recently Mas and his brother Jorge joined a consortium with David Beckham to raise $25 million to bring a new Major League Soccer team to Miami,” O’Reilly said.
With characteristic bravado, T-Mobile began lighting up its 600 MHz LTE network in August, switching on a Nokia transmitter on a rooftop in Cheyenne, Wyoming. T-Mobile’s 600 MHz LTE network rollout will initially be in rural America and other markets where the spectrum is already clear of broadcasting. By the end of the year, an additional 600 MHz sites are slated for locations in Wyoming, Northwest Oregon, West Texas, Southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, western North Dakota, Maine, coastal North Carolina, Central Pennsylvania, Central Virginia and Eastern Washington.
Jennifer Fritzsche: The broadcast incentive auction will supply T-Mobile ample low-band spectrum at a reasonable price and will open door for a possible merger. Our sense is discussions with tower operators to help with 600 MHz spectrum deployment are already ongoing. We do not see [T-Mobile] capital investment on this spectrum band to go into slowdown mode – even if a [Sprint / T-Mobile] merger is announced.
Ron Bizick: T-Mobile has been very aggressive in acquiring spectrum positions, which will lead to the need for new towers, as well as locating on existing towers. They fully intend to be competitive with AT&T and Verizon. That’s great for the tower industry.
With characteristic bravado, T-Mobile has begun lighting up its 600 MHz LTE network, switching on a Nokia transmitter on a rooftop in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
T-Mobile’s 600 MHz LTE network rollout will initially be in rural America and other markets where the spectrum is already clear of broadcasting. Those deployments and other network upgrades will increase T-Mobile’s total LTE coverage from 315 million Americans today to 321 million.
By the end of the year, an additional 600 MHz sites are slated for locations in Wyoming, Northwest Oregon, West Texas, Southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, western North Dakota, Maine, coastal North Carolina, Central Pennsylvania, Central Virginia and Eastern Washington.
In an ex parte meeting with FCC personnel, T-Mobile officials said they expect to have at least 10 megahertz of 600 MHz spectrum ready for deployment across “more than one million square miles” by the end of this year, including “hundreds of thousands of square miles” of rural areas.
T-Mo CTO Neville Ray applauded the speed of the deployment effort in the 600 MHz frequencies.
“This team broke every record in the books with the speed of our 700 MHz LTE deployment, and we’re doing it again. T-Mobile is effectively executing in six months what would normally be a two-year process,” said Ray said. “We won’t stop … and we won’t slow down!”
The operator is using “low-band” spectrum won in the government broadcast incentive auction concluded earlier this year, and yesterday’s announcement came two months after the carrier received its spectrum licenses from the FCC.
The speed of T-Mobile’s rollout is no accident. In February 2016, T-Mobile, in conjunction with Broadcast Tower Technologies and Hammett & Edison, set out a plan to maximize the resources needed to move the TV broadcasters from the band and rollout the needed technology.
T-Mobile worked with Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung and LG to ensure the right transmitter and handset technology would be available when the rollout began. It is also collaborating with the FCC and broadcasters such as the Public Broadcasting System to quickly clear the spectrum.
Moreover, T-Mobile worked with Electronics Research to make sure that adequate broadcast antennas and installation crews would be available for the TV stations’ move to new spectrum. Antenna production capacity was increased by 800 percent by the end of 2016, and production began at the end of the auction when new channels were assigned to broadcasters.
Additionally, T-Mobile went above and beyond the FCC’s spectrum clearing requirements of the auction winner, committing to pay for new low-power facilities used by local public television stations that are required to relocate to new broadcasting frequencies because of the auction.
J. Sharpe Smith is senior editor of the AGL eDigest. He joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence.
July 6, 2017 —
T-Mobile, which has recently laid claim to the 600 MHz band for 5G, has set its sights on including 3.5 GHz in with the 5G spectrum ecosystem. The carrier has petitioned the FCC to look at modifying the rules governing 3550-3700 MHz, known as the Citizens Broadband Radio Service to better facilitate 5G technologies.
T-Mobile’s Petition of Rule Making asks the FCC to auction all 150 megahertz of the spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band to the Priority Access License (PAL) licensees while maintaining opportunities to licensed-by-rule licensees using the spectrum access system.
In a blog post this week, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray made the case that the FCC needs to look to more bands other than the millimeter band to achieve the promise of 5G, and he said 3.5 GHz fits that bill.
“3.5 GHz Is great mid-band spectrum for 5G. As the current FCC has recognized, a balanced spectrum portfolio, including mid-band spectrum – between 1 GHz and 6 GHz – is essential to ensure the United States has complete 5G networks,” Ray wrote. “It has better coverage characteristics than high-band spectrum, meaning that it can help deliver the promise of 5G to rural areas.”
The Petition notes that while 5G technologies are expected to use 40-50 megahertz channels, the FCC’s CBRS rules limit PALS to 70 megahertz per market. That licensing structure would limit the number of carriers to one per market, which would strip OEMs of the impetus to make handsets for the band, T-Mobile said.
“In order to optimize the 3.5 GHz band for 5G, there must be an opportunity for multiple carriers to aggregate larger bandwidths,” T-Mobile writes.
Additionally, the 3.5 GHz band is adjacent to spectrum that has been proposed for 5G in Sen. Thune’s MOBILE NOW legislation (between 3100 MHz and 3550 MHz and 3700-4200 MHz). Ray notes that CBRS coupled with the Mobile NOW spectrum would equal 1100 megahertz of spectrum, which he refers to as a “great start.”