Following a similar move by its rival AT&T, US operator Verizon has released preliminary figures demonstrating its smartphone sales, announcing an expected record 9.8 million smartphone activations which were driven by sales of Apple’s iPhone handset.

In a regulatory filing, Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead said that in the fourth quarter of 2012, the company added 2.1 million retail postpaid net additions but expected its EBITDA (earnings before interest) to be down on the same period from a year earlier.

Verizon Communications (note the difference) chief Lowell McAdam also noted earlier that 85 percent of the devices the company sold in the quarter were smartphones, with 23 percent of its subscriber base now using an LTE device.

On Tuesday, AT&T announced that it saw smartphone unit sales top the 10 million mark for the first time in its history during the fourth quarter of 2012, eclipsing the 9.4 million record set a full year earlier.

The operator attributed its success to “best quarterly sales of Android and Apple smartphones,” which included the launch of Apple’s iPhone 5, which went on sale at the end of September and picked up ahead of the holiday season.

With the iPhone 5 offering LTE, both AT&T and Verizon are enjoying growth in 4G subscriptions. Verizon says that smartphone sales growth was stimulated by “higher mix of Apple smartphones.” This suggests Big Red is certain to post improved iPhone 5 sales over Q3, where it sold 3.1 million Apple smartphones (21 percent of which were iPhone 5).

Verizon is scheduled to announce its fourth quarter earnings on January 22.

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