This West Is OUR West

Coast to coast: T-Mobile exec pledges 5G wireless service in Montana by 2020


By Martin Kidston

October 9, 2017

Neville Ray

A senior member of T-Mobile on Monday pledged to bring 5G wireless to Montana by 2020 as part of the company’s push to become the first carrier to provide coast-to-coast coverage and unlock “radical mobile innovation.”

Neville Ray, the company’s chief technology officer and executive VP, said the transition to 5G service is already underway. By the time it’s complete, it will enable users to “connect from anywhere,” pushing technology once reserved for urban hotspots into rural America.

And that could hold sweeping implications for everything from education to shopping to self-driving cars.

“This story in Montana is a tremendous one for us,” Ray said. “We want to leverage and copy this across many parts of the U.S. We’re delighted to be bringing investment, new networks, new capabilities, new jobs and new economic investment.”

Ray, whose youngest child is enrolling at the University of Montana, made the announcement Monday afternoon on campus during the Montana High Tech Jobs Summit.

In a push to transform its company, Ray said, T-Mobile is planning what it bills as the nation’s first mobile 5G network. The next generation of service will allow higher productivity across all capable devices with faster download speeds.

Ray said greater bandwidth also brings the ability to run more complex mobile apps. It will increase battery life and have “no ceiling” to the number of devices that can connect.

“I’m going to build a great, kick-ass network that you can enhance your businesses with,” Ray said. “I don’t care what your business is. It can do more and reach more people and touch more people and be more effective with 5G technology.”

While the technology could allow businesses to move in new directions, it could also reshape education in America. Ray envisioned a future where libraries are replaced with “collaboration zones” and classroom auditoriums become obsolete.

“How do you change the norms of education, especially for a demographic that can live their entire life through a smart phone?” Ray said. “What can you do with capabilities like virtual reality? Can you transform the classroom?”

Ray said universities that move toward the future could gain an advantage by embracing disruptive technology, including that promised by 5G wireless service. Doing so could unlock a new wave of innovation that has not yet been envisioned.

It could also restore new emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math, areas where Ray believes the nation fails to compete.

“If we can bring 5G to UM and Montana State in a meaningful way in the next two or three years, how will you do things differently on campus?” he asked. “Why can’t we have more universities like the ones here in Montana become symbols or emblems of that? Can we do things in terms of 5G creation and innovation that really explore and expand our capabilities? I think it’s a rich topic.”

Ray said the technology has arrived and it’s only a matter of time and execution before it’s in place.

“Yes it will transform experiences in urban environments, guaranteed,” Ray said. “We can have very high speed, very capable environments in those metro areas. But we can also bring that 5G technology into suburban and rural America, and the commitment we’re making, and here in Montana, is that we’ll launch 5G by 2020 with 600 megahertz.”