Dish Launches $30 5G Phone Plan in 120 Cities: Here's How to Sign Up

Dish Launches $30 5G Phone Plan in 120 Cities: Here’s How to Sign Up

Dish launched its “Project Genesis” 5G system in 120 cities yesterday, fulfilling a commitment to the FCC to cover 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 plan on its Project Genesis website(Opens in a new window). The initial cities include major ones like Raleigh-Durham, NC, and St. Louis, plus smaller places like Eagle, ID, and Utica, NY.

“This is an important step forward in our work to connect Americans to our Smart 5G network, but it’s only the beginning,” John Swieringa, President and COO of DISH Wireless, said in a press release(Opens in a new window). “We continue to focus on building out more 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 to the checkout phase, a good sign. However, I didn’t go through with the purchase, so I don’t know if they will actually ship phones.

Dish was up against a deadline. It was required to “offer” 5G service to 20% of the US population yesterday, according to commitments it made to the FCC around the Sprint/T-Mobile merger.

Project Genesis currently only has one phone, one hotspot, and two plans. 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 cannot use a larger Galaxy S22 or an iPhone, and you cannot use any other phone or your existing handset, at least according to Dish’s website, though the company says “additional compatible devices will become available throughout the year.” One of them will be the Motorola Edge+, the press release says.

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 that these are truly unlimited data plans, but “no BitTorrent.”

The network seems to still be for beta testers who are willing to provide feedback to Dish: “The Project Genesis beta program invites hand-selected, tech-forward early adopters to use our network. Beta member feedback helps our Project Genesis 5G engineers tune and optimize the network for improved performance,” the site says.

Dish offers two devices ...

Dish offers two devices …

... and one phone plan.

… and one phone plan.

Now, we’re assuming that eventually it’s not going to be this way. Project Genesis still very much has the feeling of being a beta. Dish had to “offer” this service to meet its FCC requirement, but it looks like it’s not 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 has been testing Dish in Las Vegas explains that the network he’s been seeing isn’t quite ready for mass consumption. On the positive side, he says “coverage is excellent” and he’s been making voice-over-5G calls using Dish’s new standalone network. His phone roams onto AT&T and T-Mobile at full speed. Data speeds are around 30MBps down and 1Mbps up when using Dish’s low-frequency band 71 only, and around 200Mbps down/30Mbps up when mid-band band 66 is added.

But he’s seen frequent outages (probably because of network work), and there’s no E911 location, no STIR/SHAKEN spam protection, no Wi-Fi calling, and no RCS messaging.

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

Dish’s press release says that currently, only Las Vegas has voice calling over 5G, although that feature will “expand to additional markets.” (As Dish has no 4G network, voice calls elsewhere are presumably on AT&T.)

Dish says that its 20% coverage is on three obscure bands—its 6MHz of “Lower 700MHz E-block,” its 5MHz of AWS-H, and its 20MHz of AWS-4. These are in 5G bands 29 and 70. Interestingly enough, it is not making the claim based on its 600MHz band 71 spectrum, its longest-range airwaves. The claim seems designed specifically to fulfill some very technical FCC commitments rather than provide any particular 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 carrier in more than 20 years, as well as America’s first pure 5G network and a $30 unlimited plan with a half-price flagship phone. That’s worth celebrating, so let’s make sure as many people as possible can get it.

We are working to get our own hands-on with Dish and to test it as soon as we can.

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