Blog

Dish’s Project Genesis

Dish recently launched a mysterious website, 5gMobileGenesis.com, where visitors can sign up for something called Project Genesis. Few details are available about the project. Here’s a snapshot from the homepage:

Project Genesis homepage snapshot

In an article on Light Reading, Mike Dano suggests “Project Genesis” may be a brand name for Dish’s 5G service. Dano suggests the talk of “democratizing wireless” could be intended to give Dish’s 5G a made-in-America vibe:

The site’s patriotic phrasing doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Dish executives have long touted the company’s desire to primarily use American vendors for 5G (though both of Dish’s radio vendors are based in Asia).

Peter Adderton also suspects Project Genesis is about branding:

I’m not so sure Dano and Adderton have the full story. Here’s the message I saw after filling out a form on the Project Genesis website:

Message congratulating me for being a founding member of Project Genesis

Dish might be using phrases like “original founder” and “democratizing wireless” in an empty matter. But there could be more substance. Helium, which I’m sure I’ll write more about soon, is trying to create a decentralized 5G network. Could Dish be doing something similar?

Tim McDonald, a keen observer of the telecom industry, considered the possibility:

Law enforcement sirens

Trouble At Q Link

On Wednesday, investigators from multiple federal agencies raided the office of Q Link Wireless and Hello Mobile. While I’m not sure what’s going on, I’m suspicious investigators are looking into possible misuse of the government’s Lifeline program.

The program offers telecom providers subsidies to help low-income consumers pay for phone or internet service. Fraud isn’t anything new for Lifeline. The FCC recently caught Sprint misusing the program. Sprint’s misuse ultimately lead to a $200 million fine.1

CBS4 covered the raid and shared this quote from Ivan Ramirez, a member of one of the agencies involved in the investigation:

We are looking into how they provide their services…If they are to provide a service that is backed by the federal government there are certain stipulations and guidelines that must be met. If they’re not meeting those guidelines or there are some situations where anomalies pop up somewhere we’re going to come in and look.

The websites for Q Link and Hello Mobile were down when I tried to access them on Wednesday, but both websites are back online now. This latest incident only adds to my reservations about both carriers. Just a few weeks ago, I was discussing Hello Mobile and shared my two cents about the company:

I’ve just been so floored by its [Hello Mobile’s] unprofessionalism…seen an outrageous number of customer support horror stories relative to the company’s size…Hello Mobile responded horribly to what was already a pretty unimpressive security failing…the company (or someone it hired) seems to have left spam comments on my site.

A Reddit comment gives a feel for the frequency of the customer support fiascos. Ars Technica covered the security issue. One of my blog posts discusses the spam comments.


Hat tip to Joe Paonessa of BestMVNO who alerted me about this story.

Network abstract

Network-As-A-Service Model

I periodically write about how the cellular industry in the U.S. might be more efficient if it moved away from the conventional model for network operators. Under the conventional model, network operators have their own hardware placed throughout the country. A typical cell phone user will almost exclusively use his or her operator’s hardware for connectivity.

Other models are possible. Google Fi already allows dynamic switching across multiple networks. Further unconventional models have promise. I love the idea of decentralized networks. What if phones could connect to any cellular base station in an area (regardless of the company that runs it)? Software could automate an instantaneous, auction-like process where each base station in range of a device competes to offer cell phone users the best rates or quality of service.

While there are serious obstacles in the way of a decentralized model, there are rumblings about a less-extreme, network-as-a-service model for the U.S. While it wouldn’t be decentralized, third-party companies with network hardware could rent access to operators. Mike Dano of Light Reading dived into the possibility yesterday:

Just like the tenants of an apartment complex, wireless network operators like AT&T and Verizon pay rent to cell tower landlords for space on their towers.

And one analyst firm [Cowen] suggests that, in the future, those network operators may also rent their 5G radios and antennas from cell tower operators, too…Some executives in the cell tower industry agree that it’s a topic of discussion.

The full article is worth reading.

radio wave abstract

Verizon’s C-Band Timeline

Earlier this week, Verizon shared a press release detailing the company’s plans for deploying C-band equipment. As the equipment is deployed, Verizon will start making use of a huge swath of C-band spectrum it recently spent over $45 billion acquiring.

Some of the spectrum still needs to be cleared by previous holders. Further, it will take Verizon some time to roll out its new equipment. Here’s what Verizon’s deployment targets look like right now:

  • March 2022: 100 million people covered
  • 2023: More than 175 million covered
  • 2024+: Over 250 million covered

That’s based on this bit from Verizon’s press release:

Although the initial spectrum won’t be cleared until the end of this year, Verizon and its vendor partners have already begun the work to ensure the super-fast 5G Ultra Wideband service using C-band is deployed to 100 million customers by March 2022…In the first quarter of 2022, Verizon expects to put into service the new 5G C-band spectrum in the initial 46 markets and to provide 5G Ultra Wideband service to 100 million people. Over 2022 and 2023, coverage is expected to increase to more than 175 million people and by 2024 and beyond, when the remaining C-band spectrum is cleared, more than 250 million people are expected to have access to Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband service on C-band spectrum.
The word "update" in a graphic

Xfinity Mobile Updates Pricing

Today, Xfinity Mobile updated prices for accounts with multiple lines on the carrier’s unlimited plans. While Xfinity Mobile used to charge $45 per unlimited line, the cost per line now varies as additional unlimited lines are added to an account:1

Unlimited LinesOld PriceNew Price
1$45$45
2$90$80
3$135$100
4$180$120

Subscribers with family plans can still mix and match between Xfinity’s unlimited plans and the company’s by-the-gig plans (this is a hugely underrated perk for families). Pricing for by-the-gig plans remains unchanged.

Competitive Pressure

While Xfinity’s by-the-gig lines have always been priced extremely competitively, Xfinity Mobile’s unlimited plans have offered more of a mixed bag. $45 per month was a good price for a single-line, unlimited plan. Pricing was not as appealing for families that wanted several lines with unlimited data.

With Xfinity Mobile’s latest update, the carriers’ family plans with unlimited data are now usually cheaper than those offered by Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. As Joe Paonessa points out, several small carriers still sometimes offer lower rates on unlimited plans than Xfinity Mobile or the Big Three Networks.

Old cell phones

T-Mobile Offering Free 5G Phones

Today, T-Mobile announced that it’ll offer customers the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G more-or-less for free.

The A32 has a regular price of $282 and is substantially less fancy than most of the 5G phones on the market. Still, from the bit I’ve heard about it, the A32 seems like a solid entry-level device.

Both new and existing customers can take advantage of the promotion by trading in a phone. Any working phone is sufficient as a trade-in:

This offer applies to new and existing customers, and ANY old phone in working condition — flip phone, Sidekick, whatever that suitcase phone was called. T-Mobile will take it.

Detailed Terms

The deal will be available starting April 18. Customers that take advantage of the promotion will get monthly bill credits for 24 months that effectively cancel out the usual $11.75 per month customers would have to pay for the A32 on an installment plan. Tax on the usual $282 price is due at the time of purchase.

Customers that cancel service before receiving all the monthly credits will be responsible for the unpaid portion of the A32’s cost.

5G Marketing

While T-Mobile’s network is worse than AT&T and Verizon’s networks in many respects, T-Mobile is the clear leader in 5G. T-Mobile has the most 5G coverage and arguably leads in 5G speeds. The company’s decision to offer free 5G phones looks like part of a larger goal of building hype around T-Mobile’s 5G dominance.

Earth and space

Upcoming Starlink Update

Yesterday, Starlink shared an update email with subscribers in the company’s beta program. The email mentioned several recent improvements to Starlink’s product. An upcoming, major update was also mentioned:

Today, your Starlink speaks to a single satellite assigned to your terminal for a particular period of time. In the future, if communication with your assigned satellite is interrupted for any reason, your Starlink will seamlessly switch to a different satellite, resulting in far fewer network disruptions.

It sounds like the new feature may be rolled out gradually with most users getting the update sometime this month:

This feature will be available to most beta users in April and is expected to deliver one of our most notable reliability improvements to date.
Representation of a bait-and-switch

Post Redacted

4/1/2021 Update: I’m backpedaling from this post. While I’m still unsure what’s going on, T-Mobile likely is grandfathering subscribers into its hotspot plan, contrary to what a customer reported a T-Mobile rep said. From the start, I shouldn’t have taken what the rep said (or allegedly said) as gospel.

Clock and hourglass

Verizon Sets New Deadline For 3G Retirement

Major networks are gradually phasing out 3G technology. Today, Verizon announced a new deadline for 3G retirement: December 31, 2022.1

Verizon has set and pushed back deadlines a few times:

Since 2016, we have stated publicly that we are actively decommissioning our 3G CDMA network. Initially, we announced we would close down our 3G network in 2019. However, we extended our shut off date – first to the end of 2020 and now to the end of 2022 – in order to care for our customers and give them every effort to minimize disruptions to their service as they move to newer and more advanced technologies.

I wonder if Verizon always knew it would push back the early deadlines. Even if the early deadlines were artificial, they may have helped transition subscribers off of 3G-only devices:

We worked for the past several years to help those who still have 3G devices transfer to devices capable of accessing the 4G LTE or 5G networks and continue to actively work with remaining 3G customers to migrate them to new devices and technology. As a result of those efforts, we can now report that more than 99% of our customers are using the enhanced features of 4G LTE or 5G, with less than 1% still accessing the 3G network.

In today’s announcement, Verizon stated that it would not push back the retirement deadline again. I’m unsure whether Verizon will keep a tiny portion of its 3G network active after 2022 to support business customers using legacy technology.

Data abstract

T-Mobile Connect Increases Data Allotments

T-Mobile recently increased the data allotments on its Connect plans by 500MB. The $15 per month plan now includes 2.5GB of data each month. The data allotment on the $25 plan has been bumped up to 5.5GB.

The data increases are consistent with the commitments T-Mobile made to regulators when pushing for approval of the Sprint/T-Mobile merger. We should see additional 500MB increases each of the next several years. T-Mobile has said the Connect plans will be available without any price increases until at least 2025.

I continue to think the Connect plans offer some of the best value on the market.


H/T to Stettson Doggett who spotted the change to the Connect plans.