SEATTLE--T-Mobile US CTO Neville Ray spent a good share of his keynote at the Competitive Carriers Association’s annual meeting telling the audience just how ridiculous some of the claims have been around 5G by other U.S. operators, mainly Verizon, and how T-Mobile is trying to pursue actual 5G use cases that consumers can identify with.
To be sure, it’s a familiar refrain from T-Mobile, which called out Verizon executives earlier this year for what T-Mobile described as 5G “BS.” But at the CCA event, Ray had a chance to present before a relatively like-minded audience – one that can relate to a large degree with T-Mobile’s bashing of the big two, Verizon and AT&T.
Ray wasted no time in getting to the point and explained that what’s behind much of the “uncarrier” moves that the operator has been making is a desire to change the relationship between customers and their wireless carriers -- in other words, trying to drive a level of transparency and trust that hasn’t existed in the industry.
For the longest time, wireless customers have been confused about what they’re buying. “We want to kill and we are killing the data bucket,” he said. “We’re moving away from it now. We’ve been selling a service in gigabytes. Survey says: 80 percent of U.S. consumers have no friggin’ idea what a gigabyte is, let alone what it does or what it can do. Customers just want to use their devices, right?”
Watch Ray's full presentation below:
Some of T-Mobile’s uncarrier moves have been copied -- some of them badly -- by the big two, Ray added. “This industry is changing” and finally moving into an era where consumers start to trust wireless carriers. “That’s a big, big shift, and we believe we are driving a lot of that industry change,” he said.
T-Mobile showed off some of its latest advertising, teased via Twitter this morning and debuting on TV later in the day, making fun of Verizon’s “limited” network and telling customers to switch to the network built for unlimited data for everybody. “We are going to keep the big two honest,” he said.
While 4G is here today, Verizon is talking about the next-gen network and next-gen iPhone, which would make it 5G, Ray said. “They say they’ve got that today and I think that’s BS. Maybe when they launch MIMO and QAM, they’ll call that 6G or 7G.” And maybe by the time the industry can really launch 5G services, “that will be 10G. I mean the Verizon guys, they’ve got to stop this BS. It’s confusing for customers.”
As for as where the industry is heading in 5G, many of the features and capabilities in LTE are truly foundational for the 5G network of tomorrow, Ray said. While yet to be formally defined in standards, 5G brings to mind massive bandwidths of spectrum and really understanding how to aggregate large volumes of spectrum is going to be important going forward. 5G will involve Massive MIMO -- which will be on the order of 64x64 and higher -- supported by beamforming.
“We are going to be pushing the envelope really, really hard to make sure we are ready and prepared for 5G,” he said. “We’ve been pretty quiet on the 5G subject,” listening to the noise that’s out there, but “that doesn’t mean for us that we’re not doing anything. We’ve been extremely busy in trials.”
T-Mobile gave FCC Commissioner Mygnon Clyburn, who also presented at the CCA event, a tour at its facility in Bellevue, Washington, on Monday, showing her mobile 5G links operating close to 4 gigabits per second and fixed 5G links operating close to 8 gigabits per second -- with what Ray described as terrific latencies, on 5G systems that are getting close, from a radio perspective, to becoming real. But he added there’s a lot yet to happen with standards, and T-Mobile is contributing to those standards, including with partner DT in Europe.
In a new blog post on the T-Mobile website, Ray provided additional details of T-Mobile's 5G tests. He wrote that "We’ve already demonstrated speeds up 12 Gbps with latency under 2 milliseconds, 8x8 MIMO and four simultaneous 4k video streams."
Ray also released a video from T-Mobile showing off the carrier's 5G vision, noting that it's not meant to depict what’s here today but shows some of the use cases that could happen in the 5G space in the future, such as providing anti-collision technology for the split second you need it while riding a bike on the road and erasing language barriers:
In conjunction with Ray's 5G announcements, the carrier's vendors Nokia and Ericsson also released details of their 5G work with the carrier. Nokia said its 5G tests with T-Mobile used T-Mobile's 28 GHz spectrum and Nokia's AirScale radio platform. "This resulted in industry leading connection speeds and throughput rates of several gigabits per second and real-time latency of 1.8 milliseconds while streaming four simultaneous 4K videos," Nokia said.
Ericsson, for its part, said it conducted a demonstration with T-Mobile of a voice call that moved between 4G and 5G networks. The company also said its 5G radio prototype system supported a 5G demonstration of "throughput of over 12 Gbps for 5G downloads and ultra-low latency connections of less than 2 milliseconds," alongside demonstrations of two-directional beam steering and operation of multiple simultaneous 4K video streams.
In his comments on 5G at the CCA show, Ray said that, on one side, Verizon is talking about 5G as if it’s a fixed broadband substitution -- but that’s a yawn, he said. “Maybe there’s something there, but is that 5G?” he said. “If that’s all that 5G is about, we should all pack up our bags and go home.” On the other side, there’s a lot of talk about the Internet of Things, and the “things” term is not one he likes. “The last thing I ever want in my life is my fridge talking to me and telling me to bring milk home,” he said.
Really high internet speeds, massive capacity and low latencies are a few tenets expected in 5G. Bringing virtual and augmented reality to life in a way the wireless networks can support them are much more exciting than talking about connecting “things,” according to Ray.
“We see a 5G future where every major tech trend that sparks our imaginations – mobile virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and more – will all be made better and available on-the-go because of 5G,” Ray wrote in his blog post. “Just like 4G spawned the mobile-first Internet and gave rise to applications and devices that have literally changed the way the world communicates, 5G will unlock apps and solutions we can’t even imagine right now.
Article updated Sept. 21 with details on T-Mobile's 5G tests. Mike Dano contributed to this report.