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T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said this week the Un-carrier has by a wide margin the highest volume of unlimited customers and is more than comfortable with the network its built to support them.

In comments delivered at Citi’s European Telecom Conference, Ray indicated T-Mobile boasts “far and away the highest volume of unlimited customers,” and noted the Un-carrier is simultaneously still driving top network performance.

Ray credited T-Mobile’s extensive work to build out and future-proof its network over the past three years. The result is a network ready to handle a “hockey stick” increase in video traffic.

“Products like video optimization really help in terms of managing these hockey-stick shaped growth curves in industry,” Ray observed. “If you can find a way as we have with our customers to flatten that growth line with a great customer experience and a great video experience, you’re solving a lot of potential problems for the network.”

According to Ray, T-Mobile currently uses 10 MHz of spectrum for its broad low band coverage and has mid-band airwaves available for deployment in cities where there’s a need for more capacity. Spectrum in Chicago, for example, which was acquired toward the end of last year will be lit up in the next quarter, he said.

Additionally, Ray indicated the Un-carrier has a “pipeline” to build around 20,000 small cells nationally, several thousand of which will be put online this year. That build, he said, will similarly be based on capacity demands in hotspots across the country. Those small cells will come in addition to the 1,000 small cells T-Mobile turned up last year as well as its network of more than 12,000 outdoor DAS nodes, Ray added.

The additional coverage not only means T-Mobile has been able to expand its retail distribution footprint for both its own brand and MetroPCS (with plans to add 2,500 stores between the two this year), but it has also opened the door to serve more large-scale enterprise customers, Ray commented. Prior to T-Mobile’s expansion, the Un-carrier was “handicapped or excluded” from working with larger enterprise players who wanted a nationwide footprint, he recounted.

But while many of the buildout’s benefits have been immediate, it will take more time for some technologies, like 4x4 MIMO, to show their yield, he said.

“The capacity benefits on a well-penetrated 4x4 MIMO handset network are about 30 percent. Edge speeds with a 4x4 MIMO network can increase 30-40 percent, cell edge speeds on LTE. The problem is it takes time for those handsets to come through. So we’re the first to launch 4x4 MIMO, (but) the handset base is still in the single digit millions,” Ray added. “So long story short it takes time for those feature capabilities to come through in terms of speed and overall performance.”

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