The bus ride down the Las Vegas strip was the first time I had experienced it.

I had been testing the new 5G network from Dish, which was supposed to turn the company into a fourth major wireless carrier. I was finally in the city where it all started and where the network was the most mature after all the tests were done in Washington. I was sent to Vegas to look for proof that Dish's service may be competitive one day, and I found it in the form of a speed test showing downloads coming in at 236 Mbps, with a respectable 41-millisecond ping.

I typed out a message to my coworkers on the computer. Like a parent who discovered that their child can do art, I proudly displayed a screen shot of my speed test result.

As the bus passed by, my internet completely stopped working, so I didn't get to find out how they reacted.

Screenshot of a speedtest result showing a download speed of 236 Mbps, and upload speed of 12.2 Mbps.
A screenshot worthy of a place on the refrigerator door.

If I am going to have a chance at it, we need to back up a little.

Project Genesis is a test ground for the nationwide cell network that Dish is required to build out thanks to T-Mobile. As part of the merger, Dish agreed to build out a nationwide wireless network in order to ensure there was competition in the market. Project Genesis went live in over 120 cities after about a year of testing and building out the network in Las Vegas.

One of the places where Genesis can be found is in Washington. I have been assigned to cover it and occasionally check in to see how the service is doing, and so far the results have been disappointing. The network doesn't provide any sort of mind-blowing performance to make up for the hiccup.

I feel like I am not getting the full experience.

All of the impressions are based on what I've experienced there. If you want to hear a long-winded rant about our lack of museums, the difficulty of reloading my bus card, or local, don't you?

Maybe the real benefits of the nation's first cloud-native Smart 5G network could be seen in Las Vegas, where it's theoretically at its most mature. CellMapper data shows that there are more than a hundred Dish towers in Vegas. It is possible that there are more than one person who contributed to the map. It should mean more coverage, better speeds, and other benefits if you have a network that is more developed.

I'm not sure if the idea of Vegas as a Genesis utopia is in my head. It might be a bit. Vegas continues to be a testing ground for new technologies, and I have heard from a few people that they have had great experiences there. VoNR is an experimental 5G voice tech that is meant to be a next-gen version of Voice Over Long Term Evolution, and the deployment of a cellular spectrum band, n66, that it doesn't currently appear to be using anywhere else. The company believes that Band 66 will lead to increased data throughput.

Vegas has never been pitched as a showcase for Dish's technology. I told my co-workers that my next check-in would have to involve a trip to Nevada because of a comment I made about how the network was better in Vegas. I smiled to myself and said, "There's just no other way."

I was taken seriously by my boss.

Screenshot of two Slack messages from Alex Cranz, reading “Mitchell AMD is doing an event for its new GPU in November. If you want to go and also do a Genesis story...”

I found myself sitting at the Las Vegas airport trying to work off my Genesis phone's hotspot 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 It wasn't helping matters that the hotspot on my phone wasn't performing as well as it could. It would take forever to load webpages, and it wouldn't work at all on slack.

I thought this was okay. I assumed the airport was far away from the city center where all the towers would be because I hadn't looked at a map. I told myself that things would get better when I got into Vegas proper.

They did. On the bus ride to my hotel, I was able to send pictures with clever caption to my friends and colleagues because I apparently hadn't learned the dangers of jest. For the next day or so, I didn't pay much attention to my phone, it just worked.

My service only cut out once when I got into an elevator, and the download speeds were in the range of 20 to 40 Mbps. I think I can live with that if the future is quietly competent tech.

I can't speak to how Dish's new voice technology is going, despite owning one of only two that the carrier supports, and the only phone that was available when signing up for the service. A spokeswoman for the company said that the only phone that can use VoNR is the Edge Plus. The phone calls in Vegas go through the partner network of AT&T or T-Mobile.

Screenshot of the comments screen for a Reddit post titled “Elon reacts to a ‘massive drop’ in revenue as advertisers withdraw from Twitter.” No comments are loaded.
How am I supposed to revel in the dunks if they won’t load? Note the full bars of 5G, by the way.

A long wait for a late bus near the Medical District ended my boredom with Project Genesis: Vegas Edition. When my data slowed to a crawl, I was jumping between websites to find funny cat pictures to send to my wife.

Comments wouldn't load initially. Then photos. I couldn't send messages anymore. I am trying to say that my phone almost stopped working, but somehow, I was able to keep using it. After a long time, my bus arrived and began shuttling me and other people to our destinations.

After a long day of writing about graphics cards, mortals weren't meant to endure nighttime public transit journeys without having any kind of distraction. I looked out the window to see what was happening. I thought the experience of using the cell network in Vegas would be better than at home. I volunteered to report two separate stories on a single trip. Is anyone else in the same boat as I am when it comes to technology?

I was left alone with my thoughts by dish.

I wanted to put on Kings of Leon's "Cold Desert" to fulfill the vibe, but my phone couldn't handle music streaming. My cat chewed on my headphones before I left.

Just as I was about to start to process my emotions in a healthy way, my phone buzzed to let me know that a few Telegram messages had come through. I could once again bury my thoughts in the online world. The last functioning brain cell in my body was dulled by a massive sugar rush brought on by some crepes when I saw a Denny's near my destination. I forgot that I had to make sense of a new network.

The double-decker tourist bus takes us back to Vegas after we leave the city. I poked at my phone, trying to get the service it had completely given up on, instead of staring out the window. When my phone wouldn't work, I toggled airplane mode and then started the phone again.

Screenshot of Google Maps with an error screen saying “Can’t connect to Maps. Try again in a few minutes.”
If Maps stops working, that’s how you know things have gone very wrong. Also, again: five bars of 5G.

The two steps have been successful in the past, but they failed me that day. I had to take my daily driver phone out of my backpack so I wouldn't miss my stop.

It is not something that I expect from the network. What carrier hasn't made eye-roll-worthy claims about its 5G? At the end of the day, Dish only needs its network to do two things: cover enough people and not be sued by the FCC.

It's close to an acceptable level of suckage. It's the same as using my normal phone when everything is going well. My service is powered by a company that just met its first FCC deadline and is considering selling off the brand it said it would use to market this network. In the city where the network really began, I finally got the message that I couldn't buy into the hype.

My phone was back online by the time we got to the sign. It was too late, my dream was shattered, and not even Creed's "My Sacrifice" could lift my spirits. I was able to fly home because it got me back to the airport.