Slow Down? What Slow Down?
BELLEVUE, Wash. -- The economy may be in turmoil with financial markets swinging wildly amid investor uncertainty, but at T-Mobile, the nation's fourth largest wireless carrier in terms of subscribers, there is no plan to slow down on deployment of 3G wireless broadband services.
I sat down with Neville Ray, the company's senior vice president for engineering, and Cole Brodman, chief development officer, earlier this week at their headquarters to talk about how the credit crisis may affect them and whether or not it's terrible timing for the company's launch of its T-Mobile G1 cell phone built on Google's Android platform.
Ray and Brodman dispelled any concerns T-Mobile may be in trouble because of the credit crisis. Its German parent company, Deutsche Telecom, is strongly positioned to pay down debt on its balance sheet, they said. And the company has no plans to delay its rollout of upgraded network speeds and quality.
Mobile's 3G high-speed data network is live in more than 21 major metropolitan markets -- including Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle.
The Washington, D.C. area will get T-Mobile's 3G network before the end of the year, after long negotiations with federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense, to clear out spectrum that the carrier used for technological upgrades.
That deployment is important as the firm rolls out its greatly anticipated G1 Android phone, which will need the high-speed data service to fully take advantage of all the Internet features of the phone.
Ray said pre-sale orders for the G1 Android phone is about triple the carrier's initial expectations. But the firm wouldn't give hard numbers on how many pre-sales have been recorded. The executives said studies have shown cell phone service is viewed as a staple for consumers, one that many are unwilling to give up in tough economic times.
Brodman admits, however, that the phone will begin retail sales this month with lots of uncertainty as to whether consumers will be motivated to buy a new phone.
"Gravity is the issue for us. We can only control what we can control," Broadman said.
October 17, 2008; 11:30 AM ET
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