A record number of smartphones will jump on the LTE bandwagon before the year is over.
Eyeing a "breakout year" for 4G technology, Strategy Analytics expects LTE phone shipments to grow 10-fold in 2012, rising to 67 million units from just 6.8 million last year. The push is being driven across the entire industry.
"Multiple operators and multiple phone vendors will be launching dozens of LTE models across numerous countries worldwide," Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Mawston said in a statement. "LTE has quickly become a high-growth, high-value market that no operator, service developer, device vendor, or component maker can afford to ignore."
The U.S., Japan, and South Korea are some of the major countries forging ahead with LTE. Carriers such as Verizon Wireless, Japan's NTT DoCoMo, and Korea's SK Telecom are aggressively ramping up their LTE networks.
Among the four U.S. carriers, Verizon currently leads with the way with around 200 markets outfitted for LTE and another 200 expected before the end of the year. NTT DoCoMo has managed to scoop up more than 60 million customers, almost half of Japan's entire population. Though that number includes 2G, 3G, and 4G subscribers, the carrier has been pushing its Xi LTE network, promising download speeds of up to 75 megabits per second.
Apple, Samsung, and HTC are among the top manufacturers expected to push LTE's adoption. LG, Nokia, Motorola, Pantech, and Fujitsu will also tap into the trend.
Samsung has led the 4G charge with its Galaxy class smartphones and tablets, while HTC has been dabbling in the market with its own high-speed devices.
Apple is a newcomer to the world of LTE, having just introduced the tech in its latest iPad. Many industry watchers expect the next iPhone to support 4G LTE, especially following a recent comment by Verizon affirming that all of its new smartphones this year would be LTE compatible.
But as with any technology still in its infancy, growing pains will affect both vendors and customers.
"Many LTE phones and data plans will be relatively expensive, which means operators will need to invest generous subsidies to make 4G more affordable for subscribers," Strategy Analytics director Tom Kang said in a statement. "Meanwhile, consumers will be concerned about LTE usability issues, such as shortened battery life, excessive device weight, or sudden bill shock caused by high data consumption."