The growth of smartphones that support 4G wireless technology is projected to peak this year, market researcher TrendForce said in a press release Thursday, as both carriers and handset makers expand their operations.

Sales of 4G-enabled smartphones will reach an estimated 450 million units worldwide this year, growing 52.5 percent over the 295 million units shipped in 2014, according to the release. Growth will hover around similar levels for another year, before dipping to 32.4 percent in 2017 over 2016, TrendForce estimated. 

The sale of handsets, however, will continue to rise to hit 900 million units in 2017, the market researcher forecast.

TrendForce 4G Projection Sales of 4G smartphones are projected to touch 900 million units in 2017. Photo: TrendForce

China Mobile, the world’s largest telecom operator, is actively extending its voice-over-LTE (long term evolution) network across China and aims to serve 18 major domestic cities by the end of 2015. By August, China Mobile had signed up 229 million 4G mobile network subscribers and built over 940,000 4G base stations, TrendForce said.

In India, still largely a 2G market, with 3G coverage limited to big cities and towns, 4G handset sales are rising fast. Leading wireless provider Bharti Airtel Ltd. is aggressively expanding 4G services ahead of an anticipated pan-India roll out from rival Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd.

Handset makers such as Lenovo Group Ltd. are flooding India with full-feature smartphones that support 4G as well, at prices as low as 5,000 rupees (less than $100), trying to grab market share from leader Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., which is said to be planning a slew of affordable 4G devices this year. Samsung has already released two mid-range smartphones in July, offering value-added services and data pack discounts in partnership with Bharti.

Lenovo has said it sold over a million 4G handsets in India in roughly the first six months of 2015 in just online sales on e-commerce site Flipkart. Its handsets are available in physical stores as well. Xiaomi, which released an India-specific mid-range smartphone Mi 4i earlier this year, is moving to manufacture some of its handsets in India, starting with the entry-level Redmi 2, which supports 4G.

Globally, telecom operators are also launching a new generation of mobile voice services to boost their average revenue per user, TrendForce said in its release, including voice-over-LTE -- which supports high-definition voice and video calling -- and voice-over-WiFi, which can reduce networking costs by enlarging coverage area and increasing the usage of wireless network bandwidth.