Verizon Wireless: 4G Service Restored After Latest Outage

Verizon 4G customers for the second time this month found themselves without the service following an outage that stretched across the country early in the day on Dec. 21.

Verizon Wireless officials said their 4G network is back up and running after the carrier sustained its second outage this month, and third one this year, early in the day on Dec. 21.

Verizon officials issued a statement in the early afternoon, several hours after reports began circulating about another outage that reportedly stretched from New York to California.

"Verizon Wireless 4G LTE service is returning to normal," they said in the statement. "Company engineers worked to resolve an issue with the 4G network during the early morning hours."

The outage came just weeks after another incident that knocked out 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) service to millions of customers around the country, many of whom were automatically switched over to the carrier's slower 3G network.

As with the earlier incident, the outage Dec. 21 sent users to Verizon's online forums to complain and report slow or no service.

Verizon has been aggressively touting its 4G service since introducing it a little more than a year ago. Like such rivals as AT&T and Sprint, Verizon officials see 4G as a way of attracting customers and offering higher-priced 4G-enabled devices. Verizon has an early lead over AT&T in the 4G LTE race, and according to company officials, the 4G service is the fastest ramp of a new technology in Verizon's history.

As of Dec. 15, Verizon's 4G network was reaching 200 million users in 190 markets across the United States. The carrier is offering more than a dozen 4G-enabled devices, including Motorola's recently released Droid Xyboard tablet.

"Introducing the 4G LTE network has been the fastest rollout of any next-generation network in our history," Verizon CTO David Small said in a Dec. 14 statement, a day before the company turned on service in 11 new markets. "In one year and 10 days, we have brought 4G LTE to more than 200 million people. That's more than twice as fast as our 3G network rollout."

To meet rapidly growing demand for the faster service, Verizon has aggressively been buying wireless spectrum. On Dec. 12, Verizon announced an agreement with a company called SpectrumCo-a joint venture between Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks-to buy 122 Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum covering 259 million people for $3.6 billion. Four days later, Verizon announced it was buying Cox Communications' 20MHz AWS-which covers about 28 million people-for $315 million.

Industry observers saw Verizon's approach of buying spectrum from companies that no longer needed it as a smarter alternative to AT&T's now-defunct $39 billion bid for rival T-Mobile, which drew sharp criticism from competitors, consumer groups and federal regulators, in particular the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Communications Commission. They argued that the deal would harm consumers and competition.

However, reports are emerging that federal regulators also may have concerns about the amount of spectrum that Verizon is buying. According to a Dec. 20 report in Bloomberg News, the DOJ apparently is investigating Verizon's spectrum deals to determine whether they could hurt competition in both the wireless and cable industries.

Bloomberg said that a DOJ spokesperson said the DOJ's Antitrust Division was examining the deals, but would not comment further.