Why Washington Ignored G1 Debut

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There were no lines at Washington-area T-Mobile stores Oct. 22 for the launch of T-Mobile's G1 with Google smart phone. Interest and demand for the hot device was barely evident in your nation's capital.

There are two reasons for that, one obvious and one not so obvious. Neither has anything to do with the fact that Washington is a BlackBerry company town. Washington is so addicted to BlackBerrys that several years ago when BlackBerry developer Research In Motion was embroiled in a bitter patent battle with NTP and U.S. BlackBerry service was threatened, Congress almost shut down, befuddled about what it would do without the devices.

The dispute was resolved and BlackBerrys continued to stack up on Capitol Hill like so many cords of wood.

That addiction, though, has little or nothing to do with why Washington yawned at the G1's debut. Most obviously, T-Mobile's 3G network in Washington is not yet active. T-Mobile claims the match will be lit in November. Until then, interested G1 shoppers can purchase a G1 online but the service will be slow, as in dial-up speed slow.

Why has T-Mobile decided Washington will be one of last major metro areas to get its new high-speed network? Blame the feds. When T-Mobile bought the spectrum two years ago for more than $4 billion, the space was mostly occupied by local, state and federal government agencies. T-Mobile cleared the space except for federal agencies that -- surprise, surprise -- moved slowly.

As Cecilia Kang at the Washington Post's Post I.T. blog quoted Kathleen Ham, vice president of Federal regulatory affairs for T-Mobile, "This is [the] first time we had to move federal government systems from spectrum. They were not slow to move, but were surprised how fast we wanted to move."

The second, less obvious reason for Washington's G1 indifference, is really quite simple: The streets of the city are deserted as lawmakers, their staffs, politically appointed agency chiefs, subchiefs and special assistants to the subchiefs are all out campaigning.