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4G phones nab one-third of the smartphone market in the fourth quarter, up from just 6 percent a year earlier, NPD said yesterday.

Among the various 4G flavors, HSPA+ was the most prevalent, representing 22 percent of all smartphone sales. Deployed by AT&T and T-Mobile, HSPA+ got a huge boost in the fourth quarter from the iPhone 4S, which uses the high-speed technology on AT&T’s network.

In other 4G news:

  • Cricket and Clearwire today announced that they have entered into a five-year wholesale agreement to leverage Clearwire’s forthcoming LTE Advanced-ready network to off-load services to supplement Cricket’s own LTE network. Cricket currently plans to deploy LTE across approximately two-thirds of its current network footprint over the next two to three years and to cover up to approximately 25 million POPs with LTE network technology in 2012. Leap currently has a 3G CDMA roaming agreement with Sprint–the deal allows Leap to sell Cricket-branded service in areas where it does not operate a network, effectively making Leap a Sprint MVNO.
  • T-Mobile urged the FCC to make the entire 700 MHz band interoperable. T-Mobile argued, it would encourage LTE roaming and help the public-safety. The FCC next week will consider a notice of proposed rulemaking that looks at the potential for harmful interference to Lower 700 MHz B and C Block operations if the different parts of the Lower 700 MHz Band were made to be interoperable.
  • Verizon Wireless hopes to include 10 million more Americans to use LTE by year’s end, introducing smartphones that are able to tap the faster network. The carrier has drawn just 5% of its customers to the faster network. “By the end of the year, our plan is to be in at least 400 markets across the country,” up from about 200 today, said David Small, Verizon Wireless’ chief technical officer. He said Alaska would be the only state without 4G LTE service before 2013. For the rest of 2012, Verizon will only unveil smartphones capable of running on its 4G LTE network. That statement suggests any new iPhone this year will be 4G LTE-capable.

    By 2013, Verizon Wireless will reach 260 million Americans with 4G LTE, up from a prior estimate of 250 million, putting it ahead of rival AT&T, which is targeting 4G LTE coverage of about 150 million Americans by year end.

  • Ofcom has given Everything Everywhere permission to use its existing 2G spectrum to launch an LTE network this year, long before the regulator holds the 4G auction, early next year in the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum.

The United States is currently the leader in LTE deployments:

In Q4 2011, the US had just over 5.6 million LTE subscribers, comprising 64% of the 8.8 million users globally. Japan follows with 1.1 million LTE subscribers, or 13% of the global total, and South Korea ranks third with 740,000 subscribers, accounting for 8% of the worldwide figure.

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