HTC May Release the First Verizon LTE Smartphone

The race to be the first smartphone on Verizon Wireless’ brand-new long-term evolution (LTE) network is on, and 4G leader HTC appears determined to be first out of the gate.

Taiwan-based HTC launched the first phone designated 4G for Sprint Nextel’s high-speed WiMAX network in June and a house ad on its company web site this week shows a veiled phone with the words “The first to 4G again,” widely interpreted to be a promise to lead the LTE race on Verizon. HTC also makes the G2, which works on T-Mobile’s high-speed HSPA+ network.

Details at CES

When Verizon Wireless Vice President and CTO Tony Melone announced the launch of the LTE network early this month for 38 markets and 60 airports — initially for computer modem users only — he said smartphones would be available in the first half of 2011 with announcements at the industry’s biggest event, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Jan. 6 through Jan. 8. HTC reportedly has a press conference scheduled on the same day Verizon is to announce its LTE phones.

More recently, Verizon Wireless CEO John Stratton told The Wall Street Journal this week that Motorola, maker of Verizon’s top-selling Droid, Droid X, and, most recently, the Droid Pro, will have an LTE smartphone, but he offered few details.

“Motorola will be right there,” Stratton said.

Fourth-generation network coverage is still in its infancy, and with tiered data plans making it an expensive proposition, it may be some time before adoption matches the level of 3G. So making the first LTE smartphone for the largest carrier in the U.S. is more valuable for bragging rights than for sales in the short term, said wireless analyst Gerry Purdy of MobilTrax.

A PR Coup

“Samsung, Motorola and HTC all have the technical capability to do it,” said Purdy. “The real challenge…

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