Another month, another Verizon Wireless LTE network outage. At least that's the current story line as the wireless carrier investigates customer complaints of disruptions to its next-generation network.
The Wednesday outage marks four high-speed wireless black eyes for Verizon in the last three months as customers from Wisconsin, Arizona, Illinois, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and California jumped on the carrier's forums to complain early this morning.
"The Verizon LTE outage is unfortunate -- and this is a repeated occurrence, so it's definitely a problem," said Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis. "I don't have any idea what the technical issue is behind it or why they are experiencing these problems."
Apparently, neither does Verizon. And perhaps that's why it keeps happening. Verizon suffered three outages in the month of December, making this the fourth disruption to its high-speed wireless network since it launched. Verizon reported network trouble four times in 2011.
Verizon boasts about having the most reliable wireless network, but the rash of outages suggests there is a chink in the wireless carrier's armor -- and AT&T may be able to take advantage. Verizon has not offered an explanation for the outages.
"The danger for Verizon is that if this continues to happen it will mitigate a major marketing advantage for the carrier. Verizon has long claimed to have the best network," Greengart said. "If there are questions about Verizon's reliability, that would be problematic."
The saving grace for Verizon is that, despite what appear to be issues in a wide geographic area, the LTE network going down doesn't affect the masses. Many consumers do not have 4G devices, and if the LTE network goes down, devices that run on Verizon will fail over to the CDMA network. That essentially means consumers are losing the speed that 4G offers, but are still able to use data features on the phone.
"I don't know how many people this is affecting and I would hesitate to characterize it as a major problem in terms of really hurting consumers' ability to get their work done," Greengart said. "Verizon isn't using LTE for phone calls. So even with the LTE network down everyone can still make phone calls."
Meanwhile, Verizon may have a fight on its hands for FCC spectrum. Verizon plans to purchase spectrum from cable companies for $3.9 billion. Verizon agreed to a deal with Comcast, Time Warner, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks, but T-Mobile is working to block it at the federal level. T-Mobile argues the deal would put an "excessive concentration" of wireless spectrum in Verizon's hands.
That could change, depending on who wins the bid for the FCC auction of public airwaves. Congress has passed a bill that would allow airwaves currently used for broadcast television be freed up for wireless Internet. The bill's authors expect the spectrum auctions to bring in more than $15 billion in federal revenue.