Shipments of mobile devices designed for 4G LTE (long-term evolution) networks rose to a record 103 million in 2012, market research ABI Research estimated. About 95 percent of sales were in the Americas or Asia.
The market researcher said that was just the beginning of a trend which could see global LTE subscriber surging to 785 million by 2017, compared with only 58 million last year.
The market benefited from the huge successes of the Galaxy 3 phone from Samsung Electronics (SKX: 005930) and iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 from Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), ABI said.
New sign-ups and upgrades should “gather pace” this year and increase next year, said research director Phil Solis. Over time, the upgrade should boost carrier revenue by $14 billion by 2017.
Meanwhile, sales of media tablets equipped with LTE were less robust, only 3.35 million, due to higher prices, the company said. For now, most consumers are settling for tablets with WiFi only.
Shares of Apple fell $10 to $532.10 in Friday midday trading.