On Tuesday, Dish Network said its “Project Genesis” 5G cellular plan was available to the public in more than 120 US cities after a month of testing in Las Vegas, Nevada. Under an agreement with the government, which you can read about here, it was supposed to be launched on June 14. Otherwise it would face millions in fines.
After years of tracking Dish’s progress, we thought we should order a phone to test the service, which is based on a new technology and supposedly offers unlimited calls, texts, and data for just $30 a month. (There’s also an interesting gamification and reward system in the mix.) The assignment to test it fell on me, since I live in Spokane, Washington, one of the cities the service is supposedly going to. But signing up for the service turned out to be no small task: At every stage of the process, we encountered problems, bugs, and inexplicable behavior on the Project Genesis website. We’ve reached out to Dish for comment regarding these issues, but haven’t heard back.
The problems started almost as soon as I hit launch.genesis5g.com† By clicking the “order now” button, I was asked to enter my email address and home address. But once I did, the site told me I didn’t have a valid address – not that the service was not available at my home, but that the address I entered (correct, I checked several times) was incorrect .
It didn’t seem to be limited to just my building; my colleagues and I tried entering addresses in several supposedly supported cities, but the site would tell us they were invalid. Just to be clear, this was not a situation where we formatted the addresses incorrectly. (The Project Genesis website suggests addresses and lets you autofill the form using them.) It said the addresses it had foreseen were not acceptable.
After dozens of attempts to enter my address, I was finally greeted with a screen saying Genesis is live in my region. The site then asked me to choose which device to order from my service. The choices are a black Samsung Galaxy S22 with 128GB of storage and a wireless hotspot. The phone isn’t full price – it’s only $399 instead of the regular $749 MSRP – but there doesn’t seem to be an option to just order a SIM card kit for those who already have one. an S22. According to a FAQ page for support “devices are available exclusively from Project Genesis,” meaning you can’t bring your own phone, even if you’re sure it supports all of Project Genesis’ transmission technologies.
But I’d come this far, and I wasn’t about to risk something as small as $400 for a new phone that I didn’t even need to get in the way. I selected the S22 and opted for the “Project Genesis Smart 5G Unlimited Plan”, the only plan available for smartphones.
Finally, I was on the checkout page… and it was broken too. No matter what I tried, there was no way to enter my apartment number. The “Address 2” field looks like you can add information to it (such as an apartment or unit number, for example), but clicking or trying to type in it produces no results. The website has completely locked the address fields to the address you put on the homepage. Of course, if you enter a unit number in that field, it will be nowhere to be seen by the time you get to the payment page. And yes, I tested this in three different browsers to confirm that the problem occurred in each browser.
(I went to the web inspector trying to disable the lock, hoping that whatever stored procedure handled this intake form would read the data from the field, but the fields are set to read-only in a way that my browser couldn’t change – another big brain plan thwarted.)
Since condos, townhouses, and lots of condos seemed to be a no-go, I thought about sending it to my mom’s house. She lives on the other side of the country, but Dish says the service is in her town and her address is just one line. After I entered her address enough times (the verification system still didn’t work), the site accepted it and showed me the message: “Project Genesis will light up in your area soon!” That’s certainly interesting since her city is in the list of the “120 plus” places where Genesis lives, but whatever – obviously I couldn’t get the phone forwarded to me through her house.
Out of ideas, I jokingly texted my wife, Becky, asking if any of her home-owning friends would be willing to take a package for me. Not knowing what ordeal I was in, she asked what the hell I was trying to send that couldn’t be sent to our house or her workplace.
HER WORKPLACE! Becky has stuff transported there all the time, and it’s a self-contained building with no unit number.
I nearly held my breath and typed her work address into the Genesis website. After some thought, the system accepted and for the millionth time I was able to go through the process of selecting a phone and a plan. Finally I was on the checkout page, with an address that needed no additions. This was it. The last hurdle. I entered my credit card information and pressed the “Join Project Genesis” button.
My Apple Card declined the transaction saying it was suspicious. “LOL,” I said dejectedly† “Lmao.”
To be fair, Project Genesis’s form doesn’t really split billing and shipping addresses, so it’s entirely possible my card flagged it because the address the system tried to use isn’t the one I registered it to. Fortunately, Apple allows you to press a button and say “allow this.” I tapped accept and resubmitted the Project Genesis form.
The transaction has been approved – “you’re in!” stated Dish’s website, telling me I’m on my way “to experience the country’s first Smart 5G network”. I received an email with my order details (which also said it’s possible my device is) Hand delivered by one of Dish’s ambassadors, so that might be interesting) and another email with a temporary password for the Genesis app so I can log in and “earn exclusive rewards”.
Reader, that temporary password and the manual are both invisible: black text on a black background. I really can’t wait to get this phone and start testing this network.