U.S. Cellular to launch LTE smartphone, tablet in Q1

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U.S. Cellular expects to launch its first two LTE-enabled devices--a smartphone and a tablet--in the first quarter of next year, according to an FCC filing by the company.

According to the filing, U.S. Cellular and King Street Wireless, U.S. Cellular's spectrum bidding partner, will offer LTE services sometime in the first quarter. The carrier is working with one OEM on the smartphone and tablet and although the offering will be data-only for LTE service, there will likely be a voice component (likely leveraging U.S. Cellular's CDMA network). Further, the filing stated that U.S. Cellular's LTE handset will have multiple radios and multi-band chipsets and that the company's LTE offering will expand over time.  

In November, U.S. Cellular CEO Mary Dillon said the company will cover 25 percent of its footprint with LTE by year-end, launch its first LTE devices by the end of the first quarter of 2012 and that the carrier is currently evaluating where to deploy LTE throughout 2012. 

Alan Ferber, U.S. Cellular's executive vice president and chief strategy and brand officer, said that the company will likely not deploy Voice over LTE until 2013 at the earliest. However, he did say that the company's LTE devices would be cheaper to launch than Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone would cost. U.S. Cellular passed on the opportunity to sell the iPhone because it was not economically feasible, Dillon said. 

In the past, U.S. Cellular has indicated that its initial LTE deployments will be in selected cities in Iowa, Wisconsin, Maine, North Carolina, Texas and Oklahoma. These include some of the regional carrier's leading markets such as Milwaukee, Madison and Racine, Wis.; Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport, Iowa; Portland and Bangor, Maine; and Greenville, N.C.

The filing, made public Thursday, revealed that representatives from King Street and U.S. Cellular met with FCC officials to discuss the carrier's LTE plans in the context of an ongoing proceeding about 700 MHz interoperability. U.S. Cellular is one of several carriers, including C Spire Wireless and MetroPCS (NASDAQ:PCS), that own lower 700 MHz A Block spectrum and have been petitioning the FCC to require 700 MHz device interoperability across the nation's various 700 MHz bands. 

For more:
- see this FCC filing

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