Some Verizon users still reporting LTE modem problems

Verizon tech suggested an IT manager in Chicago hack the modems as a workaround

Even though Verizon Wireless claims its fast LTE network is "up and running" following an April 26 outage, it's still not working for some customers, including 50 Chicago-based users of laptops with LTE modems.

A Chicago-based IT manager, Michele Wyse, said via email that she had upgraded 50 laptop Verizon 3G modems to Pantech 4G LTE modems before the outage, but they "constantly drop [LTE] because Verizon still has not fixed their switching issues between 4G and 3G."

Wyse, who asked that her company not be identified, said she was surprised when Verizon's own technicians suggested she hack the Pantech modems so they "don't use 4G at all" to resolve the problem.

But Wyse said doing that to 50 modems is "honestly, far too time consuming and hardly something I want to repeat 50 times and then 50 more once it's been resolved!" She was surprised by the suggestion because carriers typically don't approve of such methods.

According to Wyse, a Verizon tech said he hacked his personal USB LTE modem on the day of the outage -- April 26 -- and didn't suggest doing so at the time. "But since so much time has passed and I've threatened to return all the devices I just upgraded, they are now proposing the hack," she said.

Verizon sells the Pantech 4G LTE USB Modem for $249.99 on a month-to-month data plan or for $99.99 with a two-year service contract that can be discounted down to $49.99 with an online purchase.

The monthly service plans start at $50 for 5GB of data per modem, according to Verizon, although business users may be able to negotiate special terms that include pooling of data across a group of workers.

When informed of Wyse's problem, a Verizon Wireless spokeswoman said: " Our 4G network is up and running. I apologize for the experience your reader describes...." She offered to have a Verizon technician work with Wyse to resolve the problem.

When the nearly two-day outage was reported as over on April 28, a Verizon spokesman also said that the LTE network was "up and running," with normal service for ThunderBolt smartphone users who had noticed data slowdowns to 3G or slower service.

At that time, he noted there might be lingering problems for USB modems that would improve over time. "Laptop users with USB modems may need to re-connect to the network when moving between 3G and 4G," the spokesman said on April 28. "This will continue to improve."

Reconnecting each time a user moves from a 3G to 4G tower can be confusing and time-consuming, users have complained in online comments. Many customers bought the LTE modems for LTE speed, which is 10 times faster than 3G and offers up to 9Mbps on downloads and up to 5Mbps on uploads, according to Verizon. Such speeds are helpful in transferring media-heavy files, including video.

Verizon hasn't conceded the USB reconnection problem still exists, although Wyse feels sure the problems for her workers stem from the outage. "In our experience, [the problem] has not improved in Chicago and there is no ETA on when this 'problem' will be resolved," she said.

Verizon was also supposed to begin selling the Droid Charge from Samsung, Verizon's second LTE phone after the ThunderBolt, on April 28, but hasn't begun sales yet.

One Verizon store outside of Boston confirmed it had the Charge in stock on Monday but couldn't start sales. Samsung has recently tweeted Charge sales will begin soon, but its Web site for the Droid Charge was not working on Tuesday.

Samsung said on April 28 that the delay in sales was not due to its phone, but Verizon has never given a specific reason. Analysts widely presume the delay is due to LTE network problems.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Read more about wireless networking in Computerworld's Wireless Networking Topic Center.

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Tags wirelessNetworkinghardware systemswireless internetlaptopswireless networkingMobile Apps and ServicesVerizon WirelessPantech

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Matt Hamblen

Computerworld (US)
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