Modem 'hand-off' from 3G to LTE can take two minutes, Verizon says

Telcom says fix under way for LTE connection problem, which also crops up when simply reconnecting to the 4G wireless network

Verizon Wireless said on Friday that laptop users with USB modems on its new high-speed LTE (Long Term Evolution) network may experience up to a two minute delay when switching over from a 3G coverage zone.

"Hand-offs can take up to a couple minutes, but that was expected and a fix is in the works," Verizon spokesman Jeffrey Nelson told Computerworld by e-mail.

He also said Verizon is working on drivers for USB modems designed for the LTE network so that they work with Mac OS-based computers. "Mac is not yet supported, and we've been working on drivers for Mac OS for weeks, and expect to update relatively soon," Nelson said.

Otherwise, Nelson reported that there have been no problems on the LTE network, which launched in 38 cities on Dec. 5. He said the network has been handling data "as expected," which was advertised at offering 5 Mbit/sec. to 12 Mbit/sec. of download speeds.

Some Boston-area testers have reported downloads of 20 Mbit/sec. and uploads of 5 Mbit/sec. on uncrowded networks, and generally Verizon's advertised speeds are being reported by other early testers in various cities as well. (LTE is about 10 times faster than the 3G EVDO network, Verizon has said.)

One tester wrote in Business Insider that when moving into an existing 3G network zone (over Verizon's EVDO network) with a new USB modem plugged into a laptop the network speed dropped.

Also, to get back on LTE once already having been in an LTE zone, that tester said it was necessary to unplug the modem and plug it back in again. However, Nelson said that was not necessary, although he did say it could take up to two minutes to reconnect to LTE.

The "hand-off" problem from EVDO to LTE had been foretold by Verizon CTO Tony Melone on Dec. 1. He said there would be a brief delay.

Verizon sells two models of modems for LTE connections to laptops, one from LG and one from Pantech, each for $100 after rebate and a two-year contract.

Nelson said Verizon was working with a modem maker on the hand-off problem, but didn't say which maker. Business Insider said the hand-off problem occurred with an LG model. "We're working with the modem maker for quick update, but no ETA yet," Nelson said.

The spokesman wouldn't say how many modems or data service plans have been sold so far, but said Verizon has been pleased with reviews of network speeds.

It is still early to tell how well customers will like Verizon's pricing plans for LTE data service, with $50 a month for 5GB of data and $80 for 10GB. Some analysts have predicted average users might exceed the 10GB, incurring an overage charge of $10 per 1GB.

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.

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