Will Verizon be humbled by its LTE outage?

Sue Marek
I imagine there are a lot of sleep-deprived Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) network engineers that pulled some long hours over the past day or two to try to get the company's 4G LTE network back on track after suffering an outage that started late Tuesday. This morning company spokesman Jeffrey Nelson said that network engineers and vendors had found the cause of the outage and resolved the problem. However, he did not provide more details on what caused the outage.

Although voice service was not impacted by the outage, Verizon subscribers with 4G LTE devices (the HTC ThunderBolt as well as USB modems and hotspot devices) were unable to access the company's speedy LTE data network and instead were only able to connect via its much slower 1XRTT network. And while Verizon acknowledged the problem, the company did not provide details about what went wrong.     

Of course, Verizon is not the first operator to experience a network outage. And it's not surprising that Verizon is experiencing a few difficulties with its LTE network, which launched late last year. Verizon's network is one of the largest LTE deployments in the world and LTE technology is still fairly untried in a commercial environment.

But Verizon has a long history of touting its network superiority. In fact that's been the main thrust of its marketing campaign for years. Company executives have always smugly referred to their network as being far superior to the competition and have been quick to point out the weaknesses of other operator networks.

Verizon is fortunate that this outage occurred on its new LTE network. Although the industry has been closely watching Verizon's LTE deployment progress (the network is available in 45 markets covering 110 million POPs) Verizon counts a relatively small percentage of customers using LTE as compared with its EV-DO network. Earlier this month, Verizon Communications CFO Fran Shammo said that the company activated 500,000 LTE devices in the first quarter. Verizon counts more than 100 million total wireless customers.

Nevertheless, Verizon needs to provide some details about what caused the LTE network issue, assure the industry and its customers that it will not happen again, and perhaps be just a little more humble when it comes to its claims of network superiority. After all, wireless networks aren't foolproof and neither are network engineers. --Sue

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