U.S. Cellular to launch LTE by year-end, but devices won't come until 2012

U.S. Cellular announced that its planned LTE network will cover 25 percent of its total subscriber base by year-end but devices won't be available until the first quarter of 2012 as the operator remains in the testing phase.

The announcement represents a slight delay from previous plans. Back in May, the operator said it would deploy LTE in 24 markets by November, covering approximately 25 percent to 30 percent of its total subscriber base. U.S. Cellular also said it would outfit around 1,250 cell sites with LTE using its 700 MHz spectrum.

The initial rollout of LTE service is planned for select cities in Iowa, Wisconsin, Maine, North Carolina, Texas and Oklahoma, including some of U.S. Cellular'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. U.S. Cellular said it would make announcements later as to where additional LTE deployments will occur.

The company is building out the network with partner King Street Wireless, a wholly owned subsidiary of U.S. Cellular. King Street Wireless participated in the auction of wireless spectrum in the 700 megahertz band designated by the FCC as Auction 73 and was the winning bidder with respect to 152 licenses. These 152 license areas cover portions of 27 states and are in markets which are either adjacent to or overlap current U.S. Cellular license areas.

CEO Mary Dillon said last week that U.S. Cellular turned down Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone because it did not make sense for the company economically. Dillon said that the operator had the opportunity to sell the iPhone but that Apple's "terms were unacceptable from a risk and profitability standpoint." Dillon added that the potential strain on the company's network was not a factor in the decision, and that U.S. Cellular remains open to carrying the iPhone in the future.

For more:
- see this release
- see this FierceWireless article

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