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AT&T to get the first 4G LTE Windows Phones?

According to a Windows Phone enthusiast, AT&T will introduce three new Windows Phone devices at CES with 4G LTE.

A giant Windows Phone smartphone--150 times the size of a normal handset--shares the skyline with other notable Manhattan landmarks.
Roger Cheng/CNET

Will AT&T be the first carrier to offer 4G LTE Microsoft Windows Phones? That's what Paul Thurrott of the WinSupersite blog reported Thursday.

Thurrott didn't name sources for this information. But he was very specific about the devices and launch dates for the new Windows Phone LTE devices. And he was very clear that AT&T and not Verizon Wireless, which has a much larger 4G LTE network deployed today, will be the first to offer a Windows Phone with LTE.

Thurrott also said that AT&T will announce not just one, but three LTE-enabled Windows Phone smartphones at the Consumer Electronics Show in early January. The Nokia ACE, HTC Radiant, and Samsung Mendel are each expected to ship before the middle of 2012, he said. And the Nokia ACE is expected to hit shelves on March 18, 2012, he added.

The blog also states that Verizon Wireless will offer the Nokia Lumia 710 in April of next year without LTE. T-Mobile USA has already announced it will offer the Lumia 710 starting early next year.

Support for LTE is key to the success of the Windows Phone platform as it tries to compete with Google Android and Apple in the U.S. market. Currently, none of the Windows Phone smartphones on the market support LTE. But that is likely changing. Verizon Wireless and AT&T have already begun testing LTE-enabled Windows Phone devices in their labs, CNET reported earlier this month.

While Verizon Wireless is the leader in terms of LTE today, it makes sense that AT&T would be the first to introduce the first Windows Phone LTE devices. Verizon has already made a big investment in Google Android devices for its LTE network. What's more, AT&T already has an established relationship with Nokia, which is likely to make a big push with its Windows Phone devices in the U.S. next year.

While much of this information makes sense, the companies themselves aren't saying anything yet about their plans. AT&T and Nokia declined to comment. And Microsoft was not reachable for comment, but it has remained mum regarding other rumors.

What's more there have been other rumors out the past few days that peg more advanced Windows Phone devices for later in 2012.

Just yesterday, the Windows Phone enthusiast site Wmpoweruser.com reported it had uncovered a roadmap for the development of Windows Phone that was current as of October 2011. According to this roadmap, Microsoft plans to target the low-end market with a software update called Tango in the first half of the year with more advanced features coming in an update called Apollo set for the second half of the year.

This latest news from Winsupersite.com indicates that Microsoft may be adding some advanced features for high-end phones earlier than the Apollo release. This makes sense given the stiff competition Microsoft faces in the smartphone OS market.

Microsoft's Windows Phone platform has been available for more than a year. The software had a massive overhaul in September with the WP 7.5 Mango release. But the OS platform has made no dent in terms of the overall smartphone market.

Next year will be critical for Microsoft if it hopes to be a major contender in the smartphone market. The one good sign is that developers are adding apps to the Windows Phone Marketplace at a faster rate than they did for Android devices at the same point in the software's development cycle. But Google Android and Apple iOS already have such a big lead in terms of apps and market share, it will be hard for Microsoft to make a dent.

If Microsoft is able to add more advanced features, like LTE, while also being able to address the more price-sensitive end of the market, it may have a chance of success. One thing is certain, there will be a lot of people expecting some big announcements regarding Windows Phone at CES.