UPDATED: Verizon says LTE network outage fixed

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) said Thursday morning its LTE network is back online, after being down nationwide for more than 24 hours. The outage was the first major hiccup for Verizon's vaunted next-generation network since it launched LTE in December.

Verizon spokesman Jeffrey Nelson confirmed the carrier's LTE network is now up and running. Verizon had indicated Wednesday that it would restore LTE service on a market-by-market basis. "Our network engineers and vendors quickly identified the issue and solved it," Nelson said in a brief statement.

The carrier said HTC ThunderBolt users are now experiencing normal LTE data connectivity. Verizon added that laptop users with LTE USB modems may need to re-connect to the network when moving between EV-DO and LTE service, but that it would work to improve connections.

Verizon did not specify the cause of the outage, which appears to have started Tuesday night. Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU) and Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) are Verizon's main infrastructure vendors for its LTE network. Representatives from Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson referred questions to Verizon.

Phil Marshall, an analyst at Tolaga Research, said that because of the widespread extent of the service outage, the cause was most likely a software glitch. "It sounds like it would be further up the chain, more within the core network," he told FierceWireless. "When you get a catastrophic fault like that, it tends to be more of a software issue. Perhaps someone made some changes in the network or changed some settings."

Verizon currently offers one LTE smartphone, the HTC ThunderBolt, along with three LTE USB modems and two LTE mobile hotspot devices. Verizon Communications CFO Fran Shammo said last week that the company activated 500,000 LTE devices in the first quarter, including 260,000 ThunderBolt smartphones.

A Verizon spokeswoman, Brenda Raney, confirmed that the carrier's second LTE phone, the Samsung Droid Charge, has been delayed. She said the carrier will provide more updates about its availability but did not give a timeframe for when the device will be available. Additionally, Raney said that  customers have the option of providing store representatives with their contact information and will be notified when the phone is available for purchase.

As a result of the outage, Verizon customers were temporarily unable to activate 4G LTE devices and could only access 1XRTT data connections--not the carrier's faster EV-DO data network. Marshall said that networks typically are brought back market by market after an outage to recover "gracefully" and ensure that the network is not overloaded.

The outage came just a few days after Nicola Palmer, Verizon Wireless' vice president of network operations, told attendees at the VentureBeat Mobile Summit that Verizon's LTE launch was very smooth with few glitches.  

Verizon currently blankets 45 markets and 60 airports with LTE service, covering 110 million POPs. The carrier plans to expand LTE service to at least 147 markets by the end of 2011. It will cover its existing 3G footprint with LTE by the end of 2013.

Marshall noted that Verizon has been among the most aggressive carriers in the world in deploying LTE, and that there are usually hiccups in deploying a new technology.

    For more:
    - see this FierceWireless article

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    Article updated April 28 with new information from Verizon on the outage and the availability of the Samsung Droid Charge.