What at first seemed to be a bug in the HTC ThunderBolt’s Wi-Fi Hotspot app may actually be indicative of larger problems with Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE network. The problems may also be throwing a wrench into launch plans for Samsung’s first LTE device for Verizon, the Android-powered phone apparently to be called Droid Charge.

Jon encountered the device, then codenamed Stealth, in the wild a few weeks back. At the time Jon was told the phone was slated for a mid-April launch. As early as yesterday reports had the phone slated for an April 7th launch, with pre-orders starting today at Costco. Hopefully Verizon and Samsung are still on target to bring Charge online within the next few weeks, but a source today told me that the device is still having issues with Verizon’s LTE network during testing, and that it’s not quite ready for launch at this point. The issues are apparently of the same variety being reported in Verizon Community forums and across the blogosphere by users of the ThunderBolt and Verizon’s LTE USB modems.

About six weeks ago I couldn’t stop singing the praises of Verizon’s 4G LTE network. Using a loaner Pantech UML290 USB modem with either of my laptops, I was regularly seeing mobile Internet speeds on par with those of my home cable modem service thanks to the newly deployed LTE network out here in the San Francisco area. I posted, tweeted, and told everyone I saw how I was averaging 15 Mbps down and 7-10 up, with peaks above 20 down and 15 up, pretty much wherever I went in Oakland and San Francisco. One day I went down to San Diego for work and had similarly excellent results while working from the back of a moving car.

Samsung Droid ChargeSince ThunderBolt’s launch last week things have taken a turn for the worse. LTE on Verizon is still faster than any other “4G” service I’ve tried around here, but I’m getting speeds more in the 7-10 down and 3-5 up range on both the modem and smartphone. That’s basically in line with what Verizon’s advertising, so I can’t complain too much for no longer having those insanely fast early speeds. What’s more worrisome is that I’m experiencing frequent data connection issues with both devices. ThunderBolt’s Wi-Fi Hotspot app is basically useless at this point; while I’m able to set up a hotspot, after a few minutes of use whatever devices are connected lose access to the Internet, and the phone’s LTE indicator no longer shows any active data transfer. What’s more, yesterday I started experiencing frequent and regular loss of connectivity using the Pantech modem with my laptop. Until then the modem had been rock steady, even if speeds had dipped some in the past week or so. Yesterday afternoon I had to give up on trying to use the thing altogether while working in a neighborhood cafe. Today, however, I ran the modem for about 45 minutes with no problems, though I was getting somewhat weird SpeedTest.net results, averaging 5-7 Mbps down with anything from 3 all the way up to 11 Mbps up.

The Verizon LTE issues aren’t limited to me and my neck of the Northern California woods. VZW Community forums are sprinkled with similar stories from around the country, and mobile journalists gathered in Orlando, FL for CTIA this week were reporting major issues with data connectivity. Problems may be stemming from how devices deal with moving from LTE to CDMA (3G) coverage areas, and/or there may be other issues in play as well. Early adopters always pay a price for being the first on the block to test drive new technologies, but given the early success of Verizon’s 4G service, I really hope Big Red irons out whatever bugs are wreaking havoc with the network – and potentially keeping Droid Charge from launching.

Any of you have Verizon’s LTE service where you are? How’s it working for you? Share your experiences in the comments.

[Via: Android CentralDroid Life, EngadgetVerizon Wireless Community]