Dish launches $30 5G phone plan in 120 cities: here’s how to sign up

Dish launched his “Project Genesis” 5G system yesterday in 120 cities, fulfill a commitment to the FCC to provide 20% of Americans with its new network by June 14.

Potential customers in Dish’s “120+ cities” can now sign up to buy a phone and subscribe Project Genesis website(Opens in a new window)† The first cities include major cities such as Raleigh-Durham, NC and St. Louis, plus smaller towns such as Eagle, ID and Utica, NY.

dish 5g cities

“This is an important step forward in our work to connect Americans to our Smart 5G network, but it is just the beginning,” said John Swieringa, President and COO of DISH Wireless, in a statement. press release(Opens in a new window)† “We will continue to focus on building greater coverage and bringing innovative 5G services and solutions to our customers.”

Putting addresses in Utica and Cary, NC, into Dish’s address qualifier gave me a shopping cart that I could take with me to the checkout stage, a good sign. I didn’t go through with the purchase though so I don’t know if they will actually ship phones.

Schotel had to contend with a deadline. It was supposed to “offer” 5G service to 20% of the US population yesterday, according to commitments to the FCC surrounding the Sprint/T-Mobile merger.

Project Genesis currently only has one phone, one hotspot, and two subscriptions. It’s a great deal for a phone: $399.99 for a 128GB, small Samsung Galaxy S22 (normally $799.99) or $349.99 for a Netgear Nighthawk M6 Pro hotspot.

Those are your only options. You can’t use a larger Galaxy S22 or an iPhone, and you can’t use another phone or your existing handset, at least according to Dish’s website, although the company says “additional compatible devices will become available throughout the year”. One of them will be the Motorola Edge+says the press release.

The phone and hotspot work with a $30/month unlimited phone plan, which includes roaming on AT&T or a $20/month hotspot plan. The Project Genesis website says these are truly unlimited data plans, but “not BitTorrent”.

The network still appears to be aimed at beta testers willing to provide feedback to Dish: “The Project Genesis beta program invites hand-selected, tech-savvy early adopters to use our network. Feedback from beta members helps our Project Genesis 5G engineers tune and optimize the network for better performance,” the site says.

Dish offers two devices ...

Dish offers two devices …

... and one telephone subscription.

… and one telephone subscription.

Now we assume that eventually it won’t be. Project Genesis still feels like a beta. Dish had to “offer” this service to meet its FCC requirement, but it doesn’t appear to be aggressively trying to sell it. That may come later this year, when Dish unveils its promised “Boost Infinite” brand for the service.

Hands On With Project Genesis

An anonymous tipster who tested Dish in Las Vegas explains that the network he has seen is not quite ready for mass consumption. On the plus side, he says “the coverage is excellent” and he’s making voice-over 5G calls using Dish’s new standalone network. His phone roams at full speed across AT&T and T-Mobile. Data rates are about 30 MBps down and 1 Mbps up when using only Dish’s low-frequency band 71, and about 200 Mbps down/30 Mbps up when adding mid-band band 66.

But he has seen regular outages (probably due to network work), and there is no E911 location, no STIR/SHAKE spam protection, do not call via wifi and no RCS messages

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He also estimates for us that very few people are using the system in Las Vegas right now – only 70 or so, he suggests – making it very beta, beta.

Dish’s press release states that only Las Vegas currently has 5G calling, although that feature is “expanding to other markets.” (Since Dish doesn’t have a 4G network, voice calls elsewhere are presumably on AT&T.)

Dish says the 20% coverage is on three obscure bands: the 6 MHz of “Lower 700 MHz E-block”, the 5 MHz of AWS-H and the 20 MHz of AWS-4. These are in the 5G bands 29 and 70. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t make the claim based on its 600MHz band 71 spectrum, its longest-range ether. The claim appears to be specifically designed to meet some highly technical FCC obligations rather than provide a certain level of service.

That said, I don’t want to downplay Dish’s achievement here. The company has launched the first truly new nationwide wireless provider in more than 20 years, as well as America’s first pure 5G network and a $30 unlimited plan with a flagship phone at half price. That’s worth celebrating, so let’s make sure as many people as possible can get it.

We are working on getting our hands on Dish and testing it as soon as possible.

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