Verizon Wireless may understand what Research In Motion felt a couple of months ago, as widespread outages are making national headlines -- again. In October, RIM had global outages that lasted several days.
Verizon customers are hoping the carrier can solve the problem faster than the BlackBerry maker, and in fact the company is reporting progress. But near back-to-back outages are throwing fuel on the consumer outrage fire.
"Verizon Wireless 4G LTE service is returning to normal this morning, after company engineers worked to resolve an issue with the 4G network during the early morning hours today," said Verizon spokeswoman Melanie Ortel. "Throughout this time, 4G LTE customers were able to make voice calls and send and receive text messages. The 3G data network operated normally."
Root Cause Remains Mystery
In April, Verizon experienced outages across the nation that drew the ire of its customers. And in fact Wednesday's issue was Verizon's second outage event in December. Users reported problems with the LTE network in the first week of the month. That outage reportedly left customer without Internet access on their smartphones for about 24 hours.
"A quick Google search shows tons and tons of angry customers without 4G service that just aren't getting answers. I had to spend 45 minutes on the phone last night, first with a tech rep who thought I should just turn it on and off and remove the LTE SIM card, before sending me to someone who knew what he was doing, that essentially did nothing but make me do the same thing . . ." a contributor named "diovino82" wrote on Verizon's 4G LTE Community Forum.
There are hundreds of responses just like that one, yet not much information from Verizon on why the network has seen two major outages in as many weeks and three in the last year. Verizon's LTE network is just 1 year old, and the company is moving to add additional streaming services on top of the new technology, including streaming the NFL Super Bowl to the phones.
Quest for Reliability
"LTE is still a relatively new technology, so it will take some time to mature. But that isn't really any excuse," said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research. "Verizon is looking to add core services to LTE, including voice, and I suspect they need to get the reliability of 4G to a higher level before they could roll out voice on top of it."
Kerravala makes a strong point. Not only would running voice over LTE put an additional strain on the network, it could be a disaster if the technology is not mature enough to handle it without widespread outages. Although consumers complain about spotty cell coverage, prolonged voice outages are a different story.
"Prolonged periods of outages for voice wouldn't just create inconvenience for customers. They would flee the network if that happened," Kerravala said. "Verizon can't participate in international roaming right now for voice and data. Making the 4G network reliable is extremely important to the future direction of the company."