LTE Network Struggles With 4G/3G Hand-off Issue


Verizon’s newly launched LTE network in the US is reportedly struggling with a hand-off issue between its 4G and 3G networks

Verizon Wireless is reportedly hard at work ironing out some kinks with its newly launched LTE (Long-Term Evolution) 4G network in the United States.

Several media sites have reported a problem with the handoff between Verizon’s 3G and 4G networks, and Verizon spokesperson Jeffrey Nelson confirmed to PCMag that users with Verizon’s new 4G modems “could experience delays of up to two minutes when switching between 3G coverage and Verizon’s LTE network.”

According to Business Insider’s Matt Rosoff, it’s sometimes necessary to unplug and reconnect the USB modem to make the switch back from 3G to LTE.

Wonderfully Fast

Verizon introduced two 4G USB modems with its LTE service, the Pantech UML290 and the LG Electronics VL600. Whether the issue affects both equally is as yet unclear.

A Verizon Wireless spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment.

On the upside, the network is said to be wonderfully fast.

Sharing early details about the launch during a 1 December conference call with the media, Verizon Chief Technology Officer Tony Melone said the network will offer speeds 10 times that of Verizon’s 3G network. That type of speed, he explained, translates to the ability to download 20 photos in 60 seconds.

Indeed, Rosoff has described his LTE experience so far as having a “profound effect” on how he works, and he compared the difference to his life before and after his first iPhone.

Verizon’s LTE launch lit up 38 cities and 60 commercial airports, but the effort, said Melone, is “just the beginning,” with Verizon planning to cover its entire 3G footprint by 2013.

“This is a big deal,” Melone said during the call, adding that just as Android adoption took off once Verizon got behind the OS, he expects the same will happen with LTE. “Verizon will really make the difference and kick-start the next generation of mobile broadband,” he said.

4G Arrival

Verizon competitor Sprint was the first major US carrier to launch a 4G network, via WiMax provider Clearwire. More recently – and somewhat surprisingly – T-Mobile launched an ad campaign around its “4G” network, despite the offering being based on HSPA+, a technology that it had earlier nicknamed 3.5G.

AT&T, the second largest network, is also planning an LTE-based 4G network, but is first working to complete a transition to HSPA+.

In a December report on the future of 4G, research firm Yankee Group applauded such positions, predicting that the “winners” in the 4G market will be those “able to align 4G investments with pragmatic adoption forecasts – unlike what happened with 3G.” The “losers,” added Yankee Group, will be those that “expect 4G to change the world – and drive their business growth – within the next one to two years.”

The report additionally forecast a slow build in 4G adoption rates, with – despite carriers’ marketing efforts – less than 25 percent of North American consumers understanding what 4G means by the end of 2011. In 2012, however, 4G awareness is expected to exceed 50 percent, with adoption rates exceeding 20 percent in the United States by 2014.

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