iPhone 5 Said to Lead LTE Charge as Sprint Preps New 4G Network, Devices

Apple will be among a slew of manufacturers launching their first LTE-capable smartphones next year. Apple, RIM, Sony Ericsson and Nokia are all expected to join the LTE club,” sources told Taiwan-based Digitimes this week.

Those same sources also spilled details on Sprints coming LTE network, which CEO Dan Hesse previously said would debut in a handful of markets in mid-2012 and reach 275 million people by 2014. Americas third-largest carrier will reportedly launch 15 LTE devices a combination of smartphones, tablets, data cards, etc. at the time or shortly after the network is up and running.

There are now 35 LTE networks around the world, and that number is expected to be in the triple-digits by the end of next year as carriers race to meet consumers needs for speed.

News that Apple will finally produce an LTE-capable iPhone next year cant come as a big surprise, but its certainly something that fans of the device have been waiting for. Insiders have said that up until now, Apple hasnt felt any urgent need to jump on the 4G bandwagon since a large percentage of smartphone owners either dont know what it is or cant define it. But the time seems right as Verizon Wireless will have the lions share of the U.S. covered with its LTE network next year, AT&Ts will grow to reach tens of millions of potential customers, and Sprints will make its debut.

While Digitimes isnt always on the mark with its long-term predictions, this forecast backs up what China Mobiles chairman said in an interview with Reuters earlier this week. He said his company is in talks with Apple about an iPhone based on TD-LTE, Chinas homegrown 4G technology.

So when we exactly will we see an LTE iPhone? Some analysts are already predicting it will be introduced at Apples Worldwide Developers Conference next June, but its simply too early to tell; however, odds on sometime in 2012 are looking pretty good.

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