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Disappointment greeted me at the beginning of Dish’s 5G network.

Disappointment greeted me at the beginning of Dish's 5G network.

The results of my testing of Dish’s new 5G network,

Disappointment greeted me at the beginning of Dish's 5G network.

which is intended to transform the company into the fourth major wireless carrier in the United States, were not particularly impressive. However, those examinations took place in Spokane, Washington; at this point, I had arrived in the city where everything began and where the network was at its most developed stage. And at that very moment on the bus, I had found what I had been sent to Vegas to look for: proof that Dish’s service may actually be competitive someday, in the form of a speed test showing downloads coming in at 236 Mbps, with a respectable 41-millisecond ping. I had been sent to Vegas to look for this proof because it was the reason I had been sent to Vegas.

I couldn’t contain my excitement as I typed the following message to my coworkers on Slack: “Y’all. “I have finally found the cloud 5G,” I exclaimed, holding up a screenshot of the result of my speed test with as much pride as a parent who just found out that their child is actually talented in the area of art.

My internet connection completely stopped working as the bus drove by Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen and Bar, so I was unable to find out how they responded to my question.
I’m concerned that I won’t be able to convey the extent of my dissatisfaction in that very instant; however, in order for me to have any chance of doing so, we need to go back a little bit.

Disappointment greeted me at the beginning of Dish's 5G network.

The cellular network that I have been testing, known as Project Genesis, is basically Dish’s testing ground for the nationwide cellular network that it is legally required to build out as a result of the pending merger between T-Mobile and Sprint in 2020. Dish acquired Boost Mobile and access to some spectrum that T-Mobile received as part of the deal. In addition, Dish agreed to build out a nationwide wireless network to ensure that there was adequate competition in the market. After approximately one year of testing and building out the network in Las Vegas, Project Genesis went live in over one hundred twenty cities in the month of June.

Spokane, Washington, is one of the locations where one can purchase Genesis, which is available in a rather peculiar assortment of locations. Because I happen to live there, I’ve been given the responsibility of covering it and checking in every so often to see how the service is progressing; unfortunately, the outcomes have been pretty unsatisfactory up to this point. The network continues to have the feel of a beta version, and it does not provide any mind-blowing performance to make up for the intermittent disruptions.

For some reason, I’ve always had the impression that I wasn’t getting the complete Genesis experience.

All of those perceptions, on the other hand, are founded on my time spent in Spokane with regard to it. But, and I promise that I say this with love, almost everything here is just a tad bit worse than it is in other places, and I’ve travelled quite a bit. (Don’t @ me unless you want to hear a drawn-out rant about the dearth of museums in our area, the difficulty of reloading the card on my bus pass, or the ecopolitics of our community.)

I’ve always had the impression that the true advantages of what Dish calls “the nation’s first cloud-native Smart 5G network” might be more readily apparent in other places, particularly in Las Vegas, which is theorised to be the location where the technology is at its most developed. According to data gathered from the general public via CellMapper, there are more than a hundred dish towers in Las Vegas, whereas there are only about 15 in Spokane. (Although, to the best of my knowledge, I am the only person in Spokane contributing to the map; however, it is possible that there are a few more than that.) In theory, this should mean significantly increased coverage, significantly improved speeds, and all of the other benefits that come with simply having a network that is significantly more developed.

Is it possible that the concept of Las Vegas as a utopia from Genesis only exists in my head? Maybe a bit. It’s been brought to my attention by a few different people that they’ve had really positive experiences there, and Vegas continues to serve as a testbed for new technologies being developed by Dish. This includes the experimental 5G voice technology, also known as VoNR, which is intended to be a next-gen version of Voice Over LTE. Additionally, this includes the deployment of a cellular spectrum band known as n66, which, according to CellMapper, it does not currently appear to be using anywhere else. Band 66 brings together different parts of the spectrum that Dish already possesses, which, according to the company, should result in “increased data throughput.”

However, Dish has never directly suggested Las Vegas as a venue for displaying its technology. It was completely in jest when I showed my coworkers a Reddit comment talking about how the network was more polished in Vegas and said that my next check-in would have to involve a trip to Nevada. But the comment was about how the network was more polished in Vegas. I smiled to myself as I typed “There really is no other option,” laughing at my own little joke.

After that, my manager started taking what I had to say seriously.

A screenshot of two messages sent by Alex Cranz in Slack, one of which reads “Mitchell AMD is doing an event for its new GPU in November.” If you want to go and also write a story set in the Genesis universe…
Never make jokes.
Because of this, I found myself sitting at the Las Vegas airport, attempting to work off the hotspot on my Genesis phone, and fighting the urge to panic because it was just starting to hit me that I’d signed up to cover my first in-person announcement and had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea what I was doing because I’d never done anything like this before. The sluggish performance of the hotspot on my phone, a Galaxy S22, which is one of only two phones that Dish currently supports, was not helping matters very much either. The loading of web pages would take an interminable amount of time, and for some unknown reason, Slack would not function at all.
“I’m good with this,” I told myself. Due to the fact that I had not actually looked at a map, I had the misconception that the airport was located some distance away from the city centre, which is where all the towers would be (fact check: the airport is practically right on the strip). In any case, 5G reception is notoriously poor in and around airports for a number of unexpectedly fascinating reasons. When I finally entered the Las Vegas proper, I vowed to myself that things would turn around for the better.

Disappointment greeted me at the beginning of Dish's 5G network.

They actually did it! My phone worked perfectly on the ride to my hotel, and I was able to send pictures to my coworkers, friends, and wife along with (supposed to be) witty captions. This demonstrated that I obviously hadn’t properly learned the lessons that come with knowing when to take a joke seriously. And for the next day or so, there was pretty much nothing noteworthy to say about my phone; I didn’t think about it — it just worked the way you’d expect a phone to work. I didn’t think about it because it worked the way you’d expect it to work.

My download speeds were consistently in the 20–40 Mbps range, and the only time I experienced a disruption in service was when I entered an elevator. This is something I would anticipate happening with my personal phone, which also uses Verizon’s network. That level of performance didn’t exactly blow me away, but if the future of technology is going to be more understated and reliable, I think I can make peace with that.

Despite the fact that I own one of only two phones that the carrier supports, I was using the wrong one when I tried to test out Dish’s new voice technology, so I am unable to comment on how well it is working (and the only phone that was available when signing up for the service with a Spokane address). According to Meredith Diers, a spokesperson for the company, the Motorola Edge Plus is the only phone that is capable of using the VoNR technology that Dish offers. Other calls made in Las Vegas are routed through what Dish refers to as its “partner network,” which is either AT&T or T-Mobile.

A screenshot of the comments screen for a post on Reddit with the headline “Elon reacts to a’massive drop’ in revenue as advertisers withdraw from Twitter.” There are currently no comments loaded.
If the dunks won’t load, how am I supposed to enjoy myself while waiting for them? Take note of how all five bars represent 5G, by the way.
That evening, while I was waiting a long time for a late bus close to the Medical District, my blissful boredom with Project Genesis: Vegas Edition came to an abrupt end. My data suddenly slowed down to a crawl as I was going about my very healthy nightly routine of bouncing between Reddit and Twitter. On Reddit, I was looking for funny or cute cat pictures to send to my wife, and on Twitter, I was reading about how Twitter is absolutely falling apart. I do this every night.

Disappointment greeted me at the beginning of Dish's 5G network.

At first, loading the comments was impossible. After that, images. After that, I found that I was unable to send any more messages. The point I’m trying to make is that Google Maps was the only app on my phone that continued to function despite the fact that my phone almost completely stopped working. Finally, my bus arrived, and it began transporting me and possibly one or two other passengers to the respective locations we needed to be at.

Even after a very long day spent writing about graphics cards, it was not intended for mere mortals to have to endure the discomfort of riding public transportation late at night without any kind of entertainment or diversion. I found myself thinking about what I was doing as I looked out the window at the moonlit suburbs that we were driving through. Why did I have the impression that using this cell network in Vegas would be an improvement over doing so at my regular location? Why did I accept the assignment to report on two separate stories while on the same trip? Is there anyone else who is starting to feel the same creeping sense of frustration that I am due to faulty technology that is pushy and overhyped?

Dish committed the gravest offence by abandoning me to ruminate on my own thoughts.

The only thing that would have made the atmosphere perfect was if I could have played “Cold Desert” by Kings of Leon on my Project Genesis phone, but it was incapable of handling music streaming. In addition to that, before I left, my cat had chewed up the headphones’ cables.

Thankfully, just as I was on the verge of actually beginning to process my feelings in a healthy manner, my phone buzzed to let me know that a few Telegram messages had come through. At that moment, I was actually on the verge of actually beginning to process my feelings in a healthy manner. It felt good to be back online, baby, where I could once more lose myself in meaningless controversies. I also noticed that Google Maps displayed a Denny’s restaurant in the vicinity of my destination, which led to me further dulling my one remaining brain cell that was functioning properly by submitting it to a massive sugar rush brought on by some crepes. For the time being, I have completely forgotten about the strain of attempting to make head or tail of a fledgling 5G network.

The next day, it was time to leave Vegas, which brings us back to the double-decker tourist bus that was parked on the strip the previous day. Instead of staring out the window to try and make out a replica of the Eiffel Tower that was visible through a see-through advertisement graphic, I fiddled with my phone in an attempt to coax it into providing the service that it had previously stopped providing entirely. I even resorted to using the advanced problem-solving skills I’ve acquired over the years of providing technical support. By this, I mean that I switched the phone into aeroplane mode, and when that didn’t fix the issue, I restarted the phone.

The few times that this kind of network drop-off has occurred at home, both steps have been successful, but on that particular day, neither one worked for me. Because I didn’t want to miss my stop, I reluctantly dug my iPhone, which is my primary device and also operates on a cloud-based network that is occasionally unreliable, out of the bottom of my backpack.

It’s not that I have an unrealistically high standard for Dish’s network, especially at such an early stage in its existence. Sure, the company is marketing it as “first of its kind” and innovative, promising that it “changes the way we connect,” but which carrier hasn’t made eye-roll-worthy claims about its own 5G technology? Dish really only needs its network to do two things: cover enough people so that the FCC doesn’t sue it, and suck at roughly the same rate as AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. At the end of the day, these are the only two things that matter to Dish.Disappointment greeted me at the beginning of Dish's 5G network.

And to tell you the truth, it gets surprisingly close to a level of suckage that is acceptable! When everything is functioning as it should, the experience of using this phone is very similar to using my regular phone. But every once in a while, things will go from bad to worse, and I’ll be reminded that the service I use is provided by a company that has just met its first FCC deadline and is now contemplating selling off the brand it said it would use to widely market this network. This brings to mind the irony that my service is powered by the same company. And when that occurred to me not once, but twice in the city where the network really got its start, I finally got the message that I couldn’t buy into the hype that was being spread about it.

By the time we reached the sign that said “Welcome to Vegas,” my phone had figured out what the problem was and was once again connected to the internet. But it was too late; my dream was completely dashed, and the inexplicable blasting of Creed’s “My Sacrifice” as tourists lined up to take pictures at the entrance to the city was not enough to lift my spirits. At least it was successful in getting me back to the airport so that I could fly home and have pretty much the same cellular experience as before.

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