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Posted at 11:11 AM ET, 12/14/2010

T-Mobile CTO Ray: If you like 4G, expect a delay on new devices

By Cecilia Kang

nevilleray.jpgFor all the excitement surrounding new mobile high-speed Internet networks, there aren't many devices to sell for that turbo-charged Web access.

The way T-Mobile Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray describes it, the dearth of devices will continue for LTE and other 4G networks for at least a year.

"Smart phones out there right now are just not capable or powerful enough, and that won't change in a meaningful fashion until around the end of 2011 or early 2012," Ray said during a recent visit to The Washington Post.

He talked about 4G and T-Mobile's tiered-pricing plans, a move adopted by most wireless companies as they try to manage congestion on their networks. Ray was in town last week to meet with FCC officials about stalled plans to release wireless spectrum for commercial auction.

On 4G devices, Sprint Nextel is ahead with the Sprint Galaxy and HTC Evo phones on its 4G network. Verizon Wireless launched its LTE network earlier this month without any devices, but it plans to introduce smart phones at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. T-Mobile has several phones for its own high-speed network and plans to introduce more Android smart phones next year. It is aiming for a broad range of phones, from affordable devices used for basic Internet and e-mailing to high-end phones for business users.

The problem for 4G phones, Ray said, is that the highest-end devices still need two chips for voice and data.

"That sucks the battery life of those phones," he said.

All the data consumption expected on wireless networks has pushed T-Mobile and every other major carrier to introduce usage-based plans. Ray said carriers are counting on wireless customers to use Wi-Fi hot spots in urban areas to offload the demand for data traffic. T-Mobile thinks tiered pricing is the best way to manage congestion on its networks and offers low-use customers cheaper offers. But consumer groups have argued that tiered pricing sets up users to go over data caps and end up with higher bills.

For those who don't send big files, T-Mobile offers 200MB plan for $10 a month, with a two-year contract. It also offers an unlimited data plan for $30 a month.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski likes to say that spectrum is the oxygen of wireless broadband services. T-Mobile is eager to breathe more of it. But the wireless is giant gasping for air, as efforts to auction spectrum to share with public emergency first responders have stalled and a study of another swath of radio waves adjacent to spectrum that T-Mobile already owns has been extended.

T-Mobile argued to federal officials that spectrum needed to be released quickly so that companies such as T-Mobile can better compete with giants Verizon Wireless and AT&T.

Related Stories:
FCC seeks to remedy cell phone users' bill shock

Faster cell phones bring wave of new services, charges

By Cecilia Kang  | December 14, 2010; 11:11 AM ET
Categories:  AT&T, Broadband, FCC, Mobile, Spectrum, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, Verizon  
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