Meet the CTOs in wireless: T-Mobile’s Neville Ray

T-Mobile’s Neville Ray

This story is part of a broader Meet the CTOs feature that introduces all of the major network operator CTOs across the wireless, telecom and cable industries. To read about top network CTOs from other companies, click here.

Who he is: Neville Ray served as Pacific Bell Mobile Services’ network vice president from 1996 to 1999, joining T-Mobile USA in April 2000. He stepped into the role of CTO in December 2010 and has emerged as a high-profile executive in wireless in recent years as T-Mobile’s network has transformed from an Achilles’ heel to a key talking point for the operator. Ray spearheaded T-Mobile’s push into HSPA+ and, more recently into technologies such as VoLTE, among other initiatives.

Ray is a graduate of The City University of London.

Where he is: Ray is tasked with developing and managing T-Mobile’s nationwide wireless network as well as the carrier’s IT services and operations. He reports directly to CEO John Legere and has 11 direct reports. Ray leads an organization of some 6,200 people responsible for network engineering, network business operations and IT development and operations.

What he’s doing: CTOs in the tech world often tend to stay out of the spotlight, but Neville Ray – like his boss John Legere – doesn’t mind attracting attention. Ray frequently speaks at investors conferences and sits in on earnings calls to discuss T-Mobile’s network strategies, and he recently took to Twitter overnight to give customers status updates while the carrier worked to restore a network outage in Pennsylvania.

That outage notwithstanding, Ray has a few reasons to boast about T-Mobile’s network, as evidenced by two studies released in August. OpenSignal reported that T-Mobile operated the nation’s fastest LTE network in a study performed from May 1 to July 10, edging out Verizon with an average LTE speed of 16.3 Mbps. And Ookla, which maintains the popular app Speedtest, reported that Verizon edged out T-Mobile for the fastest LTE network in the land.

The carrier has clearly gained momentum since August 2014, when RootMetrics determined T-Mobile had overcome Sprint to become the No. 3 U.S. wireless network in terms of overall network performance.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile’s network has grown to cover 312 million POPs, and its Extended Range LTE footprint is accessible by 225 million POPs. Ray said in August that the operator will “close the gap” with Verizon’s LTE network coverage by the end of the year, covering the same number of people that the nation’s largest carrier does.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile continues to make progress with newer technologies in an effort to add capacity and increase network speeds. Two months ago Ray said the operator had doubled the speed of its LTE network using 4x4 MIMO (multiple input, multiple output), and it recently became the first U.S. carrier to launch 256 QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation) for downloads and 64 QAM for uploads. Ray has also said the operator will begin to approach 1-Gbps LTE speeds in some markets next year by coupling three-way carrier aggregation with 4x4 MIMO.

Of course, some analysts continue to express concerns about how well T-Mobile’s network – or any other network, for that matter – can hold up as mobile data usage continues to climb. Those concerns came to the fore in August, when both T-Mobile and Sprint launched “unlimited” data plans that will surely prompt increased consumption. But like Sprint, T-Mobile implements policies such as “optimizing” – or downgrading – video for unlimited users to ease traffic on the network, and Ray and his colleagues are confident T-Mobile can continue to deliver a satisfactory user experience despite ever-expanding appetites for mobile data.