Yesterday marked the third widespread Verizon data outage in December alone. Not only did this outage affect the 4G LTE network, it affected the hand-off to the usually reliable 3G network as well, leaving some customers with intermittent data or worse, no data at all. Seeing as the shoe fit, we discussed this on last night's episode of the Untethered Podcast.
David, Marques and I talked about how it could possibly affect Verizon's current marketing push and customers' confidence. For years now, Verizon has been known for its extremely reliable network. I've been a Verizon user for three years now without a hitch. Outages (until recently, of course) have been near nonexistent and I've even hit very few dead spots, no matter where I go.
Marques Brownlee, a video maker for the popular MKBHD YouTube channel and DroidDog, was one of those people. His 4G was out entirely for several hours and his 3G was off and on for a while, too. Our own Evan Selleck was also hit by the outage. I was trying to get in touch with him yesterday evening prior to the podcast and didn't hear a reply from him for a solid hour. This was roughly six and a half hours after we first learned of the outage. Aaron, too, was affected by the data issues.
It wasn't until this morning that we heard from Verizon that all was well with their networks again.
Could the network be caving under the pressure of a few hundred thousand new 4G LTE customers? (Android and iOS garnered nearly 7 million activations on Christmas day alone. It's a safe bet that a large chunk of those were customers buying a 4G LTE phone for use on Big Red's network.) Regardless of reason, with so many outages in such a short period of time, you have to wonder what's going on in the minds of those affected.
So how are customers reacting? I'm getting lots of mixed emotions. Some, naturally, don't care. I saw one commenter relate all of these outages to a power outage – it goes out, you deal with the outage while technicians work on the problem and all is well when it comes back on. I have also read of others who have actually cancelled their contracts and switched to another carrier. Aaron ran a poll yesterday evening asking, "Will Verizon's 4G LTE outages make you reconsider upgrading?" Only nine percent answered, "Yep. I'll stick with my 3G Verizon device for now (or upgrade to a new 3G device)," and 17.9 percent said, "Meh, I really don't care." And 25.3 percent answered with, "Maybe. It's a new technology, so I expect bugs," and 26.2 percent chose, "Nope. 4G LTE or bust baby!" Finally, 21.3 percent said, "I'm switching carriers due to the issue."
A single, isolated outage is one thing. You can always see an uproar customers' comments on stories detailing the outages, but they usually forget about it after a day or two. Multiple, long and widespread outages that affect hundreds of thousands of customers (new and old) is an entirely different ball game. It slowly begins to wear down patience.
As we can see from the poll, there were quite a few who said they would switch carriers due to the outages, 21.3 percent to be exact. I don't expect nearly one fourth of affect users to actually follow through, but if these outages keep occurring at the same rate or more frequently, I imagine some may stick to their guns.
Not to mention, this is killer to their current marketing push for the largest 4G LTE network and the "nation's most reliable 3G network." While people with 3G devices weren't affected by the outage, people using LTE devices had trouble falling back onto the 3G network while LTE was down. As the poll shows, not many are avoiding LTE due to these outages, but if Big Red doesn't put an end to the blackouts or fix the hand-off to 3G (if that's even possible at this point) so customers aren't let entirely without data, this could have a lasting effect. Who cares if they have the largest 4G LTE network in the nation if it constantly crashes and leaves people without 4G or 3G?
Personally, I have been unaffected by any of the outages due to not carrying a LTE-capable phone. However, I have been hit by many outages in my day. During my good ol' BlackBerry days, I was slammed with BIS outage after BIS outage. Eventually, I had all that I could handle and I bought a new phone. I have a feeling that it would be much of the same if my data was entirely gone, had I been carrying a LTE phone. If I'm left with 3G, a LTE outage really wouldn't bother me too much. But if my phone has trouble connecting to 3G because the LTE network is down, I would begin to get a bit frustrated and begin to weigh my options. Canceling would be an unlikely option, though. I've got a lot to lose if I leave Verizon.
But I know there are a lot of people out there, new subs especially, who have nothing to lose by switching. Some people rely on their data connection and need it for business and other things. These frequent outages have to be at least edging people closer to canceling their contracts and jumping ship.
Tell me, Verizon LTE customers. Have any of you switched? Have you considered it? At what point (or after how many more outages) will you either demand action from Verizon or cancel your contract and take your business elsewhere?