AT&T seeing record smartphone sales in Q4 of 2012

AT&T Mobility chief Ralph de la Vega told investors today that the carrier is selling smartphones at a record pace in this last quarter of 2012. Because of this, the CEO says that the carrier now expects to sell 26 million smartphones this year, 1 million more than previously expected. And as you can imagine, this news bodes extremely well for Apple and its handset…

Given that the iPhone typically accounts for 60-80% of AT&Ts smartphone mix, and that it’s currently on pace to break its 9 million smartphone record set during last year’s holiday quarter, Apple could be looking at 8+ million handset sales from the one carrier. Now imagine if it did the same thing at Verizon, and even half that at Sprint. That’s 20 million iPhones.

CNET has more on de la Vega’s comments:

“AT&T is hoping for a happy holiday when it comes to smartphone sales. The wireless carrier is selling smartphones at a record pace — 6.4 million already in the first two months of the quarter, according to Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T’s mobility arm…

…What we’re seeing is tremendous response in the marketplace,” he said. “Excitement is at an all time high. I feel very good about momentum going into December.”De la Vega said the first two months of sales alone would give the company the second best quarter of smartphone sales, and sales typically ramp up going into the last month.”

Apple could really use the good news right now. If you’ve been watching the stock market at all today, you’d have noticed that AAPL plunged some 6.4% (or $37 in share price) on the back of heavy trading and other factors — it’s worse trading day in four years. And a lot of folks are wondering if the company can hit its lofty goal of $52 billion in revenue this quarter.

The Cupertino company is expected to sell in excess of 40 million iPhones in the current 3 month period, which would smash it previous record of 37 million set during last year’s holiday quarter. And between de la Vega’s comments, improving iPhone 5 supply and Apple’s aggressive international rollout of the handset, it seems to be on its way to hitting that target.

We’ll find out for sure come January.