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U.S. Cellular plans new 14-state LTE launch

Fri, 02/17/2012 - 2:34pm
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

U.S. Cellular pulled back the curtain on its new LTE markets yesterday with a round of deployments to span cities in 14 states.

More than half of U.S. Cellular's customers in 3,600 additional cities and towns will be covered by the mobile broadband network by the end of this year, it said.

"We're excited to bring access to 4G LTE speeds, along with a growing lineup of cutting-edge 4G LTE devices to more customers across the country later this year," U.S. Cellular President and CEO Mary Dillon said.

The new markets include cities in Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. They are expected to light up in the second half of this year.

U.S. Cellular also showed off its third LTE device, a mobile hotspot from Samsung. It is expected to hit shelves sometime this spring, though specific pricing and availability were not provided.

The regional operator announced earlier this month that it planned to flip the switch on its first LTE markets in six states in March, hitting some of its key markets, including Milwaukee, Madison and Racine, Wis.; Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport, Iowa; Portland and Bangor, Maine; and Greenville, N.C.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet will be the first device offered with the new service, followed by the Galaxy S Aviator smartphone. Additional LTE devices are on the way, including smartphones and a USB modem.

The LTE launches will help U.S. Cellular retain customers amid competition from larger rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

U.S. Cellular is short on the 700 MHz spectrum it needs to run its LTE network. It is using 700 MHz airwaves owned by King Street Wireless for its LTE service in "several" markets.

It is also working to buy additional spectrum. This week, it filed applications with the FCC to buy three 700 MHz licenses in North Carolina from Cavalier Wireless and two 700 MHz licenses in Nebraska from USA Communications.

U.S. Cellular has been losing customers despite an aggressive loyalty campaign instigated by Dillon. Recurring customer losses shrunk its subscriber base to 5.93 million at the end of the third quarter. Fourth-quarter results have not yet been announced.

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