By: Jesse Cryderman

Despite doomsday predictions doled out by misinformed armchair Mayan historians, December 21, 2012, came and went, and the earth is still spinning at the same speed. Nevertheless, there were some significant service interruptions last month that had nothing to do with Mayans or their so-called prophecies.

On Christmas Eve Amazon’s east coast cloud servers went down (again), taking Netflix and Heroku with them. Apparently, there were problems with the Elastic Load Balancing service at Amazon’s data centers. Interestingly enough, the company’s own streaming video service, Amazon Prime Instant Video, was unaffected by the outage. So how regionally distributed is Amazon’s cloud?

If a failure on the east coast results in nationwide client-service outages, it appears that Amazon offers something more akin to a hosted service than an interregionally redundant cloud offering. For a company like Heroku, which sells a popular platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering, the outage severed service for its downstream customers as well.

Broadband subscribers in New Zealand also experienced significant outages last month, but NZ Telecom took steps to make sure no one felt Scrooged: landline-to-landline calls were free on Christmas Day, traditionally a high-volume call day. “We want to do something for our customers that shows we understand how frustrating this week’s outages through the night and late evening were for them,” said Chris Quin, the company’s CEO. “We know how important it is to stay connected, and we want to make it that much easier for you to connect with family and friends this Christmas.” An apology along with free service? Sounds like customer experience management (CEM) done right.

Back in the US, Verizon battled service problems with its 4G LTE network. Big Red claims it operates the most reliable 4G LTE in the nation, but with three big outages in December, that claim is beginning to look more like spin. From Houston to Indianapolis to Columbia, Maryland, Verizon customers watched as their 4G LTE service disappeared for extended periods of time. But a spokesperson for Verizon Wireless told NBC News that service did not fail, because the company’s 3G network picks up the slack whenever 4G LTE is on the fritz. “The network itself continues to operate and all customers continue to be able to make calls, send text messages and utilize data services. 3G devices are operating normally.”

Sprint + SoftBank + Dish + Clearwire: the duopoly destroyer?

Will Sprint become the CSP that breaks up the competitive duopoly of AT&T and Verizon in the US wireless market? Although it’d be surprising, it’s certainly shaping up that way. Thanks to a major influx of capital from Japan-based SoftBank, Sprint is on a spectrum spending spree. It may not look like it at first, but the $2.2 billion the company pitched to take over Clearwire is all about spectrum. Beyond the addition of Clearwire’s deep spectrum holdings, Sprint may also become the default 4G wholesaler.

It’s also in talks with Dish Network, which recently got approval from the FCC to launch its own wireless network over wide swaths of spectrum it currently uses for satellite TV. Don’t be surprised if Sprint and Dish forge a network-sharing agreement. At the same time, Sprint has moved ahead in the connected-car market, and continues to widen its M2M portfolio. The coming year bodes well for the emerging challenger.


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