T-Mobile President of Technology Neville Ray reiterated that T-Mobile’s target of attracting 7 million to 8 million fixed wireless access (FWA) customers by 2025 is achievable.
Speaking at a Morgan Stanley investor conference on Tuesday, Ray said there’s this belief that “everybody is going to have fiber” or very high-end cable, and that’s “absolutely not the case.” He suggested there are still plenty of rural geographies that aren’t going to see fiber anytime soon.
T-Mobile is busy “un-carriering cable,” he said, and that’s because the space traditionally dominated by cable companies is not competitive. “It’s often monopolistic in its geography, its turf, its business practices,” he said.
That explains why so many people are excited about a T-Mobile high-speed internet offering in their neighborhoods, even though it’s not promising gig speeds. “I wish I got gig speeds from my cable guy. I don’t,” he said. “I think I pay for it, but I get something very different.”
At the end of the fourth quarter, T-Mobile counted about 2.6 million high speed internet customers, which is well on its way to that 7 million to 8 million target by 2025. And while cable rivals like to suggest fixed wireless doesn’t have the capacity for the long haul, Ray said as the network guy, he’s very confident that 5G is where it’s at.
“I'm very comfortable with our capacity story,” he said.
A lot of the worries about network capacity are anchored in the old world of LTE, and the 5G network brings capabilities that are far more than anything that’s been done before, he said.
T-Mobile continues to deploy mid-band assets, including 2.5 GHz, PCS at 1.9 GHz and, by the end of the year, AWS spectrum. It also secured “great volumes” of spectrum in both C-band and 3.45 GHz, he said, and “we’ll start deploying those.”
Those deployments are included in the capital run rate of $9 billion to $10 billion as they move into 2023 and beyond, he said. “That spectrum is sitting there as a great reserve for us,” he said. “We’ll deploy it as and where we need to for capacity reasons.”
Millimeter wave and FWA
T-Mobile also still has “this raft” of millimeter wave spectrum, which it uses in hotspots and venues today, “but I’d love to bring that to the market in another aggressive, competitive play,” he said. “I think home broadband, we can make it happen. You need CPE, you need a receive antenna, which is external to the house, to make that really work.”
He added that there’s more complexity in the solution, and it requires a truck roll. “But we’re getting very confident now we can make those economics work and that model will be very accretive for the business, but more to come,” he said.
Ray, who will retire in October, said his successor, Ulf Ewaldsson, is a multi-decade veteran of Ericsson and knows the T-Mobile business “incredibly well,” having spent the last four years at the company.
Ewaldsson was key to the site modernization that T-Mobile accomplished after the combination with Sprint. Abdul Saad has been with Ray since his days at Pacific Bell Wireless in California, and John Saw, the CTO from Sprint, remains with the team.
Ray said he will be taking some time off to decompress after years of building the T-Mobile network at a phenomenal pace. However, “I’m going to really enjoy watching what they do next with this powerful network that we have, and there’s a lot of opportunity ahead of the business,” he said.