Mobile Telecommunications and Verizon Wireless Service Level Agreements

This morning in the Northern Virginia area, Verizon Wireless seems to have had a hiccup in their data networks that support their mobile devices. This is the third such hiccup to effect the 4G customer base this year – something that marketing is heavily pushing and early adopters are salivating over due to the speed and technology advances that are provided.

Information regarding outage: http://www.androidpolice.com/2011/12/21/verizon-suffering-another-outage-many-3g-and-4g-customers-left-without-data-services/

It really would be nice to know when the system will come to steady state for LTE and CDMA access to be restored. While I realize that Verizon is doing its best to provide service to millions of customers, I would also hope that Verizon would be willing to provide something like “status.vzw.com” that has either a blog with entries of what network outages may be occurring on a large scale or something like Google or Amazon Web Services dashboard that shows outages related to services with additional information below.

Is this too much to ask for a multi-billion dollar industry so that individuals that rely on mobile telecommunications are able to more adequately recommend or put faith into their provider?

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Verizon Wireless and the LTE Network…

I realize that we’re all human, however for technology services I tend to offer service providers with a pretty high level of scrutiny.  Over the past few months I have been trying out the Verizon LTE offering. For those of you not familiar with LTE it stands for Long Term Evolution. It’s a technology similar to GSM which is used world wide for cellular communications technology. Verizon Wireless recently has been upgrading and augmenting their network to add in LTE on top of its CDMA or Code Division Multiplex Access (what Sprint also uses as their core 3G service provider).

Nevertheless, last December a few days after the LTE network in Northern Virginia went live I went to my local Verizon Wireless store and bought a PanTech UML290 device outright. As an early adopter I realized that it potentially could be a bumpy road of sorts. Little did I know though that it would be a bumpy road of continual disconnects and frustration.

In January 2011 I called the Verizon Wireless help desk (note I’d called them in December as well) to discuss the issue I was seeing to ascertain as to whether it was just my modem sporadically having issues, or if it was more an enterprise issue.  While the technician did not admit to it being an enterprise wide issue, he did say that it seemed that a node I was connecting to at the nearby cell tower which was providing service was having a problem. Therefore, whenever I attempted to use the modem and it selected said node, an “at cause” event would occur.

This event would not disconnect the modem, but rather would cause it to essentially have the traffic shaped to it become negligible. In other words, I could ping other sites using ICMP, or I could perform DNS lookups, but anything that required communicating and retrieving web based resources where data packets were transferred was effectively zero. Pretty cool technology right?

So I was told that a ticket would be opened and that I would receive a ticket number that was associated with this incident. Once the ticket was opened the network engineers that work on Verizon’s network would investigate the node, physically checking the tower and replacing the component that was broken.

I have yet to receive that ticket number over a month later. Further, this issue is not isolated to just the tower near my residence but seems to be prevalent throughout the Northern Virginia area.

I’m not quite certain what Verizon is doing to correct these issues, whether it’s a software issue with the VZAccess Manager or an actual networking issues, but three months later and it’s still not allowing for connectivity greater than ten minutes (there have been some sessions that have actually lasted longer, but they’re few and far between).

Perhaps someone from Verizon Wireless will actually read this, perhaps it is just words entered on the Internet that will be disregarded.

If you’re thinking of using Verizon Wireless for it’s LTE network with lightning fast speeds, be wary that you may also be in for a bumpy road. While it’s incredible fast, it is unstable.

Maybe Verizon Wireless was lacking the funds to complete the network and figured that suckers like me would be their “investment funding” in the sense that we could get on the network but would be disconnected shortly there after and using our service fees they can use it as a cost recovery of sorts as well as a stabilization fund to fix the problems.  Seems unacceptable to me.

PanTech UML 290 LTE–First Thoughts

So I bit the bullet and bought the PanTech UML 290 from Verizon Wireless, flat out. Works like a champ… when it works. The above speed test was taken from my house.  I noticed that after about ten minutes, the card would stop transmitting traffic.  At first I thought, “alright, maybe there’s a hardware issue.”

Oddly enough though I would run an NSLookup and get a valid response. I would try to ping Google.com and it would ping. So I was left scratching my head wondering why I wasn’t able to transmit and receive anything other than just a DNS record or an ICMP. So what did I do? I called Verizon’s tech support.

uml290So I disconnected and then reconnected and all was back to normal with super fast network connectivity that scared me (yes, scared me thinking to myself that just a few years ago these speeds in a wired environment were usually only in corporate data networks or academic environments).  Then about ten to fifteen minutes later, boom, disconnect.  Third times a charm I figured, and gave it another reconnect request, this time the session was flawless and had no issues, lasted 45 minutes long and then I disconnected manually and left for dinner with a few friends.  When I got back, I opened a ticket with Verizon support – they called back pretty quickly and left a message since I wasn’t available.  Rather than shy away from the issue I went ahead and gave them a call to further discuss.

After talking with a gent about what was going on, it was confirmed from my network traffic that there were “at cause” issues where the modem would attempt to talk to a specific node of the LTE cell and be disconnected from transmitting at that level and cease data traffic altogether. Because it’s the network side an official ticket was opened and network engineering team will investigate the network hardware and routing to correct the issue.

So first thoughts, LTE is blazing fast.  LTE is expensive in that Verizon wireless is capping at 5 GB for $50, 10 GB for $80.  I’d like to see VZW man up and do what MetroPCS is doing with unlimited usage for $60

Nevertheless, according to VZW, they should have the issue resolved in 5 to 7 business days, I’m interested to see it get fixed and will report back then.