Wireless Notes -- Verizon Express Network 1XRTT/EvDO Coverage, Drops, and Service Issues List Verizon Express Network 1XRTT and EvDO issue history:

Previous introduction to the Express Network/EvDO drop list about problems with the introduction of the 1XRTT and later EvDO services and the replacement of CDPD service.


Last Update: 01/22/2007

This file used to be part of the Verizon Express Network 1XRTT/EvDO Drops/Issues List, however, much of this information is of an historical nature and most of what is discussed herein pertains the initial problems during the rollout of 1XRTT service in 2002 and then EvDO is 2005, a good deal of which has been remedied. Thus, this file has been created as a separate repository for information as to systemic past issues rather than current (2007) ones.

For current issues, including a state by state list of drops and service issues with Verizon Wireless' Da 3G (1X and EvDO) and 4G/LTE Wireless Data Networks, please refer to the Verizon 1XRTT/EvDO/4G/LTE Drops/Issues List.

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General/Background:

Since 1997, we have been using Verizon's (and to a lesser extent AT&T/WS's) analog-based CDPD data service. The service is relatively slow (24 kbps down is a generally the best speed we can achieve, usually slower), and not very well built out outside of the major Northeast and Western urban areas. Although there are some rural carriers, such as US Cellular in Maine for example, which have built out CDPD networks as well (and which ATTWS customers may roam on at no charge in many cases), generally, if you travel outside of the Northeast or the LA and SF areas, you won't have CDPD service.

Where service exists, although it is slow, it generally works well -- CDPD is a relatively robust protocol -- if you loose coverage the your laptops or wireless device's data connection will not terminate -- CDPD seems to wait until you come back into a service area and just resumes the connection! Thus, if you drive from Concord, NH (with CDPD from Verizon) west to Vermont (where there is no CDPD service), and then down I-91 to Mass, as you get to Northampton where Verizon's service area begins, CDPD pops back in, and your connection resumes. (If data is being passed at the time you go out of coverage you may not be able to re-establish the connection if too much data tries to "push" through while you are out of CDPD coverage, but if only a limited amount of data tries to push through, you can easily drive out of CDPD coverage for and hour or two, then drive back into it, and all the data will flow back in as soon as get into good enough coverage. If you need to watch logs go by or get streaming information, CDPD works well as you can drop in and out of coverage and a connection will not normally drop during while out of coverage.

Another bonus of CDPD is that you generally are given a static IP, so people can remotely connect to your laptop (if you allow them) to upload files, get work you did remotely, and generally have access to your mobile device (again, if you allow it) as if your laptop were connected to a land-based internet connecton.

Although robust in terms of keeping a connection "alive", it was not in terms of speed and latency, and by 2002 BAMS/Verizon was ready to roll out its newer, CDMA (digital) based 1XRTT network. This network required a new type of card, which we obtained from Verizon which was reselling cards from Sierra Wireless (the same people who made the CDPD card; we got Sierra 555s and they seem to work very well; it is a PAIN dealing with Sierra Wireless in Canada since they have not yet set up an office in the US and there are all sorts of shipping, customs, and exchange rate problems in dealing with them; so much for NAFTA! :) ).

Unfortunately, during 2003 and 2004, Verizon's new(er) "high-speed" data service, using the 1XRTT protocol, and labeled as "Express Network", didn't fare as well, and had handoff issues, unexplainable drops, connections would hang for no reason, somtimes the laptop would crash or just lose all IP connectivity, and so on.

Besides rarely approaching (at this time) the boasted "burst" speed of 144 KbpS and having many areas of significantly slower coverage, the Express Network service is encumbered by the pernicious problem of resetting itself in certain areas. As a result, users must close the Express Network application (on a laptop) or disconnect from the service, and re-establish a connection. All work is likely to be lost from the first connection/session, so, for example, if someone were using FTP to transfer a 2 meg file, a dropped connection will result in forcing the user to have the entire file resent. For people who are not on the $99 unlimited Express Network Plan, having to reconnect and re-do the file transfer can eat up a significant chunk of a given customer's included minutes/Kb allotment.

The Express Newtwork/1XRTT drops/resets are generally not directly related to poor coverage -- indeed, most of the areas where the drops/resets occur are areas of very good coverage where both analog and CDMA digital phones work and hand off perfectly (more so analog-wise; there is some correlation between CDMA/digital sudden drops and 1XRTT/Express Network drop/resets, but it is slight). Thus, the Express Network service will simply drop and reset itself (and drop your connection and data session!) in areas where an analog and generally a digital call will work/transit through fine and not drop.

After a number of dead-end technical trouble tickets filed with the various Verizon data offices resulted in no improvement (detailed in a posting/letter from 11/09/2002, located at http://wirelessnotes.org/bams-1xrtt-ny-d rops-20021103, we contacted corporate in New Jersey and spoke to Mark Houlihan(sp?) whom we were told is responsible for 1XRTT service problems. After a series of (one-way) e-mails in late October and early November 2002, as well as more recently in Jan 2003 where we detailed what appear to be systemic service problems throughout the NY and some areas of the New England markets, we were told "Oh, we are putting up a tower in Westchester so maybe that will help the problem". Really...that will help 1XRTT drops/resets, which we noted in our correspondence along NY-440 between NJ and NY in Perth Amboy and on the Staten Island side? Must be one TALL tower! :(

It appears, then, that either Verizon doesn't "get" the problem (unlikely), or they are discovering what others have said for a while, essentially, that these "advanced" data services simply do not live up to their promise and that after billions of dollars in investment simple problems like handoffs and maintaining a continuous connection are unattainable goals. We would hope that they resolve these problems as when the service does work it is generally superior to CDPD, but the current drops, variable throughput speeds, and poor quality of service practically make it unusable for business needs.

We are currently re-evaluating our use of the 1XRTT product from Verizon, and may opt to cancel our Express Network service (and perhaps try Sprint's again?) and insist that no early-termination fee apply as they simply are not able to (essentially) "live-up" to their end of the bargain and provide a viable, mobile data solution which does not drop/reset in certain areas of otherwise good coverage. This may also be a means whereby other Express Network/1XRTT customers may terminate their contracts with Verizon due to Verizon's apparent (in our cases and in the cases of many of the people who have written to us about similar problems in their respective markets) utter inability to diagnose, verify, and remedy significant defects in their Express Network/1XRTT data service.

(Note that in areas of poor coverage, such as going through a tunnel with no 1XRTT coverage, the connection does not drop -- it simply waits for a few minutes until the 1XRTT signal is detected again and resumes the data session, much like our current CDPD [a slower, older, and apparently much more robust data service] service does. So this is not an issue of traveling to where there is just no coverage -- these areas apparently have very good 1XRTT coverage and yet for some unexplained reason as you traverse them the connection drops, the connection software and/or laptop need to be reset (or even shut down!) and the entire session needs to be re-established! This is a great inconvenience when driving (you need to pull over and start all over again) and totally unlike our experiences with CDPD service which never has any problems of this nature. There is no way at this point that Express Network can "take over" from CDPD, and I hope Verizon doesn't try to sell their Express Network/1XRTT service to public safety / emergency response agencies as they may spend more time resetting their connection than actually using the product! :( It is, at this stage, as a result of all the drops/resets, IMO not ready to assume the work reliability-wise of CDPD.)

Update 06/04/2003: In a number of cases, we have recently observed that the connection no longer "drops", e.g., the "Watcher" software doesn't say "Connection Lost", but in effect the connection is still lost. Instead of dropping, it "hangs", and no data can be passed back and forth until all connections are closed (such as SSH, Telnet, FTP, etc.), you Quit out of The Watcher, you restart The Watcher (or whatever program you use to connect to the Verizon 1XRTT network), and only then will it start to work again. Note that as in the earlier paragraphs, when the Verizon Express Network connection hangs, even the above procedure may not work, and an entire reboot of your laptop or system may be required -- not a very convenient way to use a wireless network, and certainly not a very robust "enterprise" solution or product.

Update 06/15/2003: We've identified three types of drops with Verizon's 1XRTT Express Network Service, which are:

  • Type 1: Connection DROPS, all data sessions (Web, FTP, Telnet, etc.) are lost. Sierra Wireless Watcher software says "Ready to Connect" about 30 seconds after connection drops. You can hit the "Connect" button and the service will re-connect. If you re-start your FTP or Telnet sessions you should be able to re-connect. These are the least annoying drops and occur most often (approx 65% of the time).
  • Type 2: Connection HANGS (not drops), all data sessions can not move any data through the Verizon 1XRTT network. There is NO WAY to tell exactly when or where these occur, since the Watcher does NOT reset - it just sits there, in a "hung" state, not indicating that anything is wrong other than that the "RX" and "TX" data throughput indicators do not increment (i.e., no data is going through). If you quit the Watcher, disconnect all TCP/IP sessions (or rather close them; they all have already been disconnected!) and then re-start the Watcher, you should be able to re-start your FTP and other TCP/IP sessions. These are somewhat more annoying and require a lot more work to restore your service (I.E., you need to close and re-start everything).
  • Type 3: Connection HANGS as above (Type 2), all data sessions are lost and cannot move any data, and the Watcher does not indicate there is any problem other than the TX and RX indicators not incrementing. However, YOU CANNOT QUIT THE WATCHER!! If you click on "Disconnect", it does nothing! If you go to the Task Manager (via control-alt-delete) and stop/kill the Watcher process, it eventually dies, but when you try to re-start the Watcher, all you get is "Searching for Aircard 555 modem" (which again cannot be stopped/killed). If you go once again to the task manager and try to kill it, it will again eventually die, and then when you once again try to re-start the Watcher it still cannot find the modem. Removing the Aircard 555 and then re-inserting it won't work either. You need reboot the laptop and start all over -- something you probably can't do too well in a mobile environment, and a general pain regardless in ANY environment.
  • For a complete discussion of these 3 types of drops, see the full June 15, 2003 Update

    Note and Additional Problem Update 10/14/2003: Verizon has also detected (via some tests with us) that Telnet (port 23) and SSH (secure telnet, port 22) will drop/hang if they are idle for more than 5 minutes. We have also detected this with FTP connections which last for more than 5 minutes, regardless of if data is actually being transferred, meaning effectively that a file which takes more than 5 minutes can not be sent! Verizon has also graciously agreed to let us out of our 2-year contracts (even though we have 1 year left) due to these problems. This is detailed in an October 14, 2003 update concerning FTP idle drops as well as Telnet, SSH, and our contract options. A further update and discussion is also available at verizon-en-drops-update-20031020

    Success! Verizon seems to have resolved some of these issues -- many of the drops/hangs from the list below no longer take place (and will need to be tested and the list edited accordingly over the next few weeks/months), and the Telnet and SSH problems (and FTP?) seem to have been fixed. See a brief, conditional update from November 6, 2003, which discusses the resolution(s).

    Do note, however, that Verzons's 1XRTT still suffers from many dificiencies which CDPD did not, mainly:

  • Generally, a Static IP is not offered, and you need to pay Verizon Wireless something like $500 to get one. Sprint/Nextel's 1XRTT/EvDO Service and ATTWS/Cingular's EDGE Service offer static IPs at no additional charge. Although some people prefer a dynamic IP for the anonymity it may offer, a static IP is very useful if you will have people connect to a company's or your own wireless device and/or as a remote user you need to access a corporate LAN or home network which blocks unknown IPs. By having a static IP, firewalls, routers, mailers and other TCP/IP devices/services can allow only the given wireless device to connect while barring all others. Verizon's insistence on dynamic IPs and charging $500 per static IP essentially precludes the widespread use of static IPs by most Verizon customers.
  • 24 Hour Disconnects: Verizon's 1XRTT and EvDO services disconnect automatically after 24 hours, so if you have your connection open and someone is FTPing files from you and the 24 hour period expires, the connection is terminated and all transferred data lost. They can prevent this in their switch (we've had them on occassion do this with us, only be overridden in a few months by some automated process on their side which checks for these things or something), but almost never will. From a cursory look around the Internet, it seems that a lot of people complain about this as part of Verizon's highly restrictive use policies, and they don't seem to care.
  • Rapid Timeouts: If you loose connectivity (drive though a tunnel or travel momentarily into a poor converage area), the 1XRTT or EvDO software will only allow 3 to 4 minutes before it drops and you loose your connection and any open TCP/IP sessions (like telnet, ssh, web streams, ftp, etc.) are lost. CDPD was not like this (see above), and I see no reason why Verizon has such a short timeout period. Obviuosly loss of coverage in a given area is not our "fault", and if Verizon can't support coverage in some well-travelled areas at the very least allow for the data timeouts on 1X/EvDO to be a good deal longer. They are aware of this and again just don't seem to care. (We need to see how Sprint's 1X/EvDO and AT&T/Cingular's EDGE systems handle this; EDGE does seem to want to wait longer before it times out, but it has other problems which prevent us from using it.)
  • Update, 2006, EvDO issues: Well, now that the 1XRTT issues in terms of hangs, handoffs, and drops (other than the ongoing and current non-drop issues immediately above) have been for the most part remedied, Verizon rolls out EvDO service, and soon evDO Rev.A, which will offer speeds around 1 Meg down and ~60Kbps up (EvDO), and 2 megs down(?) and closer to 225 Kbps up (EvDO Rev.A).

    However, it seems like we are revisiting the initial 1XRTT hangs, drops, and handoff issues all over again!

    We tend to call these EvDO issues "Cycle" issues. "Cycle Areas", as per area not drops per se, that is, the connection is not torn down requiring a manual re-connect, but instead an area where the transition from 1XRTT to/from EvDO does not occur "smoothly", causing connections to "hang" either for more than a momentary period (at best) or to completely time out (at worst). In such cases, telnet/ssh/SSL and other ongoing connections will need to be re-established, as well as downloads, streaming audio and video, etc. Again, the EvDO/1XRTT software does not disconnect, but the extended delay in cycling "up" from 1XRTT to EvDO or cycling "down" from EvDO to 1XRTT, during which time data does not seem to pass, results in established TCP/IP connections being lost.

    We are assuming that this is part of the debugging and initial implementation of the EvDO system, and that as soon as EvDO is universally implemented a lot of these "cycle" issues will go away. However, after two years (almost) of EvDO service, many of these issues remain, and the EvDO service seems too "delicate" and "fussy" compared to the 1XRTT service (and hence we do not yet use EvDO for any mobile application) or the much more robust (and now gone :( ) CDPD service.

    Specific EvDO issues are detailed under the "EvDO Cycle Areas" section on the Verizon 1XRTT and EvDO Express Networks Drop List, and we will continue to post new problems and remedied EvDO-specific issues on that list.

    Overall, this discussion and the 1X/EvDO drop list will hopefully serve as a central source where such data service drop information may be collected, posted, and utilized in furtherance of future service improvements by Verizon.


    Disclaimer/Note: The authors have nothing to do with Verizon other than using a few of their phones and/or data products as paying subscribers. While we will try to keep these lists current, you should test them out for yourself and not use this as a dispositive and authoritative source of information as to Verizon's cellular service (or lack thereof). In other words, these are just our and/or other's observations -- we try to be accurate, but we make no representations other than what we have observed (and if others notice we are wrong about a given drop, please mail us so we can test the drop and modify the list accordingly.)


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    Last modified 01/22/2007