Verizon Bans 4G Tethering to Maintain Network Stability

by Matt Klassen on June 9, 2011

The advent of 4G LTE was a promising sign that the days of watching your data consumption were over. Users were excited at the prospect of blazing fast data transfer speeds on ultra powerful smartphones, next generation technology that would boldly and reliably push the wireless sector into the future. The reality, though, is much different, as carriers like Verizon can barely keep up with consumer data demands, trying to maintain the delicate balancing act between increasing data usage and network stability.

In fact, it looks like Verizon, currently the countries largest carrier and its premiere LTE pioneer, is quickly finding that life in LTE country isn’t easy, as the promise of increased data transfer speeds has, surprise surprise, brought with it an increase in data usage, with users increasingly employing their phones as network hotspots, tethering multiple devices to their phones to utilize LTE’s lighting fast network speeds.

So what has Verizon done in response to this increased user demand? No, it didn’t improve its network service—that would just be crazy; instead it has reportedly barred 4G tethering on all its LTE compliant devices, a move that has many crying foul.

While many thought the advent of 4G LTE technology would ease the pressure on America’s struggling wireless networks, I’ve long stated that such next generation advancements barely allow carriers to keep pace with current consumer data habits, meaning that 4G will probably be obsolete before it has even completed its full rollout.

In response to the challenges posed by increased data traffic on its LTE network, Verizon has asked Google to block all tethering apps on the Android marketplace, a request that Google has reportedly agreed too. While many find such a move desperate and unfair, consumer advocacy groups are taking their complaint one step further, arguing that not only is it unfair, but its also illegal…sort of.

The Free Press, one such advocacy group, has officially lodged a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, arguing that Verizon’s drastic measures contravenes the license Verizon signed with the Commission and the FCC’s own Net Neutrality standards laid down late last year.

The complaint, in part, reads: This practice [of barring tethering] restricts consumer choice and hinders innovation regardless of which carrier adopts such policies, but when Verizon Wireless employs these restrictions in connection with its LTE network, it also violates the Federal Communications Commission’s rules.

The rules in question refer to the responsibility of Verizon not to needlessly or arbitrarily restrict consumer choice, stating that the carrier, “shall not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of their customers to use the devices and applications of their choice.”

While there may be some weight behind this complaint, as the misstep contravenes not just the FCC’s controversial Net Neutrality standards but a spectrum licensing agreement as well, it remains to be seen whether the FCC can, or will, do anything.

To me, however, this whole situation smacks of desperation and unpreparedness, a sign that Verizon, nor any other carrier for that matter, is equipped to handle the data demands of current smartphones. Users pay through the nose for access to Verizon’s 4G network, and the carrier clearly is not able to cope with the demands, leading it once again to attempt quick fix band-aid solutions to a longstanding and complicated problem.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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