T-Mobile USA’s CTO: Nokia, BlackBerry Need to Step Up

The fast growing sales of Android-based (s goog) smartphones and Apple’s iPhone (s aapl) mean the onus is on Nokia (s NOK) and Research In Motion (s RIMM) to come up with compelling and competing products, according to Neville Ray, Chief Technology Officer of T-Mobile USA.

In an interview with me, Ray didn’t mince words when he said, “Nokia and RIM have had a great history. They need to step up and make sure they’re going to be offering a great experience going forward, too.”

“I think that competition is healthy,” Ray said, “I think it will force others to step up.” T-Mobile USA is an unabashed backer of Android and has been very aggressive in embracing Google’s mobile operating system.

Today, the company announced it was introducing its HSPA+ wireless broadband service in more markets. It launched the T-Mobile G2 (Read the GigaOM Review) and T-Mobile MyTouch devices, along with a new HSPA+ enabled netbook to tap into the network that at present, has theoretical top download speeds of 21 Mbps. These devices are part of a growing list of Android-based smartphones currently being sold by Ray’s company.

Last week, RIM introduced a BlackBerry Bold model capable of handing HSPA+ speeds and including UMA built into the device. When I asked Ray if T-Mobile was going to introduce that device before the end of the year, he said it wasn’t introducing that device in that timeframe (aka before the end of the year).

Ray pointed out that during this holiday season, T-Mobile USA would have twice the number of Android devices for sale in comparison with other U.S. carriers, a sign perhaps, that BlackBerry and Nokia might be on weak footing with the Bellevue, Wash.-based phone company. According to research reports earlier this month, Android-based smartphones are now 44 percent of the U.S. market, crushing RIM’s BlackBerry OS. According to Canalys, Symbian (with Nokia being its main proponent) has 33 percent of the worldwide smartphone market. Canalys noted that Apple pushed ahead of RIM, which has seen its share of the total smartphone market decline.

Yesterday I wrote about the concept of a Gigabyte phone, something Ray talked about extensively in a conversation with me. “We’re seeing now the emergence of the gigabyte-per-month smart phone, which is very, very exciting and a great opportunity,” he said. “You’re seeing some of these very capable smart phones emerge, and in several cases, we’re seeing devices where data consumption will be greater than a gigabyte per month.” According to some estimates, iPhone and Android owners consume 196 megabytes and 148 megabytes every month, and those amounts is likely to increase 700 percent over next five years.

He argued that as devices get better — screen sizes, battery power and network speeds, memory and processors — data consumption is going to increase. These increases need environments — operating systems and applications — that are conducive to higher consumption of content.

“The richness of the mobile Internet, in all its dimensions, and the application environments have seen incredible growth over the past two to three years,” he said. “Obviously, we’re an Android house here at T-Mobile, primarily, and the phenomenal growth in the Android marketplace has been a compelling story.”

“Data traffic on our network is up about 150 percent over the last three quarters,” said Ray. “If you look at average usage on smart phone, where you have richer and more capable devices with the larger screens, you see often double those numbers, and as I mentioned, exceeding above a gigabyte. As you improve screen size and performance, you see a lot more adoption or digestion by the consumer of video.” Ray said that video consumption in 2010 is up almost 300 percent on T-Mobile network compared to video consumption in 2009.

Ray said the focus for carriers and handset makers is how consumers use the devices to consume the web. “And I think that’s the key area that both Nokia and RIM have to figure out, and they have work to do,” he said.

From GigaOM.tv archives: A Review of T-Mobile G2

In Part II of my conversation, I will discuss death of the flat rate plans, the need for speed and spectrum and what really makes a 4G network.

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