6. Neville Ray, CTO and Executive Vice President, T-Mobile USA - Most Powerful People in Wireless

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Neville Ray, CTO, T-Mobile USAWhat makes him powerful: Neville Ray is the first technology chief to make it to the Powerful People list, a list typically reserved for CEOs. But when T-Mobile's newly appointed CEO John Legere called Neville Ray a "rock star" during the company's media briefing about its proposed acquisition of MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS), we took notice.

"This is a rock star. This is a real network genius, and he's known in the industry, and what he's been doing in the refarming and setting up of LTE already is one of the things that's made this deal possible," Legere said.

And when Ray was pegged to narrate a video to the public that is intended to "set the record straight" on T-Mobile's deal with MetroPCS, a role that typically is reserved for the CEO, it became even more evident to us that Ray is not your normal CTO.

The fact that T-Mobile's management team has selected Ray to communicate the details of its critical MetroPCS acquisition to the public is unprecedented. When AT&T (NYSE:T) attempted to acquire T-Mobile USA in 2011 for $39 billion, the deal was championed by all of AT&T's leadership, but CEO Randall Stephenson was the point person for the deal.  

Of course, Ray is no stranger to the limelight. He has been overseeing a $4 billion network modernization project that calls for the revamp of T-Mobile's entire network as the operator prepares to roll out LTE in 2013.

That plan becomes even more complex with the MetroPCS merger. If approved, T-Mobile plans to move all of MetroPCS' CDMA customers off that network and onto a combined LTE network from MetroPCS and T-Mobile that will run on AWS spectrum. 

But long before LTE became a possibility, Ray was already pushing the envelope in wireless network technology. Under Ray's leadership, T-Mobile shocked the industry by branding its HSPA+ network technology as "4G" technology. The company boasted that its HSPA+42 technology provided speeds comparable with Verizon's LTE network, a move that provoked a lot of controversy in the industry over the definition of 4G.

The charismatic CTO also was front-and-center during the recent cellular network issues experienced by all operators in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. While many other operators chose to let their communications to the media be handled by the company's PR team, Ray addressed the issues head-on, providing details to the Wall Street Journal about T-Mobile's arrangement with AT&T that allows their customers to use each other's networks in New York and New Jersey. "We are looking to collaborate more broadly on the restoration effort so that we can bring up complete services in an area in a faster manner than if we were working on our own," Ray said in an interview.

Clearly Ray is a CTO that can do much more than just build a network and make sure it operates efficiently.--Sue

Special Report: Top 25 Most Powerful People in U.S. Wireless 2012