By Chris Velazco
There’s been more than a little bit of Verizon Wireless news making the rounds today, and on the surface, it all seems like good stuff. Verizon (NYSE:VZ) will cover 200 more markets with LTE by the end of the year? Awesome! The next iPhone Verizon carries will probably have LTE? Not exactly a huge leap there, considering a LTE-packing iPad will hit Verizon shelves this Friday, but what the hell — I’m in.
But let’s take a step back for a second: how well will their network hold up under that kind of strain? Verizon wants to double the size of their LTE network by the end of the year, and in all likelihood will have a huge LTE flagship device in the form of the new iPhone. I don’t doubt for a second that Verizon will make good on their plans to expand their LTE network by leaps and bounds, but the carrier’s recent LTE hiccups don’t fill me with much confidence.
It’s the price Verizon is paying for being the first and most prominent LTE player out there. High-speed data connections are a huge selling point, but since they were the first carrier to go gung-ho with LTE, they’re forced to figure out and manage these network issues on the fly.
Verizon even said as much back in December, when the company’s LTE network dropped out three times within the span of three weeks. At the time, Verizon called the problems “growing pains” and noted that nationwide issues like those wouldn’t happen going forward. The plan was (is?) to segment their LTE network by location so any future disruptions wouldn’t affect customers coast to coast.
A reassuring answer to be sure — they owned up to the problem, apologized, and laid out a credible sounding way to manage the issues. Still, the plan doesn’t quite seem to be working the way Verizon wants it to. Just yesterday, users across the country once again dealt with a 4G outage: I was affected in here in New Jersey, and Verizon customers as far as Oregon were unable to use their LTE connections. Some users reported not being able to get a data connection at all, a symptom that appeared during Verizon’s slew of December outages too.
This, in short, sucks. Sure, I may use my mobile connection for checking emails and watching dumb YouTube videos, but other people lean on Verizon’s network for actually getting things done. It’s rather telling that Verizon has stopped calling theirs the “most reliable 4G network” in their marketing materials, using that distinction for their 3G network instead. You know, the one they don’t seem to want people using anymore.
I’m sure that Verizon will spend loads of money to bulk up their wireless infrastructure this year. After all, they spent over $9 billion in wireless capital expenditures last year, and though they haven’t offered up specific numbers, their 2012 wireless capex budget is said to be around that. Still, it seems like Verizon is racing to get their entire customer base swathed in 4G coverage, and while the end result is a desirable one, the road getting there may be a bit too bumpy for the customers they already have. I like you Verizon, so please: don’t screw this up.