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Verizon’s LTE congestion is a big vulnerability

Verizon Wireless has admitted that its LTE network is struggling to meet the demands of users in some key markets, CNet reported this week. Heavy data usage is straining the LTE network in big cities such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo said during an investor conference, forcing some users onto the substantially slower 3G network.

Interestingly, Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal today posted results of his (admittedly) unscientific tests of the four major LTE networks in the U.S., writing that “Verizon was the most consistent performer” among the tier-one carriers. But the comments following the CNet piece (as well as this follow-up on Gigaom.com) indicate some Verizon users have experienced trouble with LTE for as long as a few months.

That’s a problem because Verizon’s network has been a key selling point for the carrier, helping it become the largest mobile operator in the U.S. (and charging a premium in the process). But Sprint and T-Mobile have turned on LTE in some important markets across the country, and their build-outs continue. If users find Verizon can’t meet their mobile data demands, they may find other carries who can do so — and for less.