The introduction of 4G wireless services such as WiMAX and Long Term Evolution over the next four years is expected to push the percentage of U.S. households with broadband Internet connections up from just over 50 percent today to 77 percent by 2012, according to a new study by Gartner. That will make the United States tied with Japan for the fifth highest broadband penetration rate in the world, behind South Korea at 97 percent, the Netherlands at 82 percent, Hong Kong at 81 percent, and Canada at 79 percent.

The increase in U.S. broadband penetration is expected to bring about a number of changes. For example, Internet service providers (ISPs) will likely change their focus from expanding their networks to reach new customers to expanding what customers can use those networks for, said Gartner analyst Amanda Sabia. For instance, ISPs could focus on delivering entertainment applications such as Internet video and games, IPTV content, and home networking applications, she says.