Verizon Outage Highlights Dangers of Leading Edge

Wayne Rash
Probably the worst thing that happened as a result of the April 27 outage of the Verizon Wireless 4G network was public embarrassment for a lot of Verizon Wireless executives. The good news is that the company's ThunderBolt 4G smartphone was very new-it being the company's first LTE phone-and few companies really depend on them. Unfortunately, at least some companies that I've heard from have come to depend on their 4G LTE mobile access points, and for the time being, they're out of luck.

I know it's odd to say that it's good news that few people have come to depend on a product, but with the Verizon Wireless 4G network being out for an as-yet-undetermined time, the news is in fact good. Had this happened to a carrier with a significant 4G footprint, the results could have been a disaster.

Now, instead of a disaster, it's an example from which one can learn. Or, as some might say, it's a teachable moment. The thing that's being taught is that adopting a new and relatively unproven technology has its risks. Depending on that new technology has more risk. Betting the company on a technology such as this can cost you the company.

This isn't to suggest that adopting Verizon's 4G technology is a bad idea. It's not. When the 4G LTE service is running, it's very fast, has few problems and works well. The problem is that now we're learning once again that new technologies frequently have birthing pains. Having the entire network go down is such a birthing pain.

At this point we don't know what actually happened, but in reality it probably doesn't matter. The lesson that's being learned as a result of this network outage is that it makes good sense to move slowly when adopting a new technology, especially when it's a technology that can have a critical impact on your business. There are always bugs in new technologies. Sometimes those bugs can take out a whole network. Sometimes they're never noticed and are cleared away in the next update.

If the problem is such that only a small part of your company is affected when the new technology goes south, then you'll survive. The only time to worry is when you've adopted something too quickly. Then, it could be that when it dies, so do you.

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