The fifth generation of mobile networks won't make "one iota of difference" in the wireless industry in the next two years, T-Mobile Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray said Thursday during an earnings call following the publication of the company's consolidated financial report for the final quarter of 2017. While the Bellevue, Washington-based mobile service provider is currently pursuing 5G deployment together with its three national rivals, the firm isn't expecting to see the market adopt the technology on a significant scale until the 2020s, with Mr. Neville predicting operators will still "compete around LTE well into the next decade."
The comments weren't just meant to downplay the public anticipation around 5G but also highlight T-Mobile's existing 4G LTE network that the company has been touting as the fastest in the country for years now, with those claims repeatedly being backed by a number of independent studies. While the next infrastructural upgrade is expected to deliver unprecedented speeds, capacities, and latencies, Mr. Neville is already "very comfortable" with T-Mobile's current technological position and expects the company to continue reaping the benefits of its 4G LTE investments for years to come before 5G starts accounting for the majority of its operations. The executive reiterated T-Mobile's plans to launch its premiere 5G service in the first half of 2019 once the software and smartphones compatible with the new connectivity standard become available. The initial version of T-Mobile's network will leverage its 600MHz spectrum acquired at the FCC's auction in 2017 but the company is also looking toward millimeter-wave deployment, Mr. Neville said, confirming that the carrier already has mmWave spectrum holdings in major metropolitan areas throughout the country.
As was often the case in recent times, Mr. Neville criticized Verizon's 5G projects during T-Mobile's latest earnings call, saying the largest wireless carrier in the United States is ironically looking to commercialize a 5G fixed wireless access service in the "most unreliable fashion known to man," referring to the fact that Verizon's 5G FWA plan involves 28GHz mmWave spectrum that generally offers weak penetration yet is exclusively meant to serve residences as a broadband alternative. T-Mobile CTO still wasn't willing to rule out an FWA solution but should the company get itself involved in such a project, it likely won't attempt relying on the mmWave spectrum to do so. While consumer adoption of 5G services may be slow, the next wireless technology could potentially propel T-Mobile in the enterprise segment where the company is presently barely relevant, accounting for only several percentage points of the domestic market, according to recent estimates.