T-Mobile inks deal to acquire remaining interest in iWireless

T-Mobile continues to expand its presence in smaller cities and rural markets.

T-Mobile agreed to acquire Iowa Wireless (iWireless), finalizing its plan to acquire the remaining interest of the regional carrier serving Iowa, western Illinois and eastern Nebraska.

The nation’s third-largest mobile network operator said it had reached “a definitive agreement” to pick up the remaining share of its longtime affiliate, which had been owned by Aureon, an Iowa-based IT firm. With the move T-Mobile will add 103 full-service company stores and authorized-dealer outlets serving 75,000 customers who’ll have access to T-Mobile’s full slate of offerings.

The deal, which is subject to typical regulatory approval, is expected to close late this year or early next year.

“We’re taking T-Mobile to every corner of the country and this deal shows our commitment to expanding in the heart of America,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in a press release. “We’ve been disrupting the wireless industry for the benefit of consumers for the last five years now and customers in Iowa will be able to experience the benefits firsthand.”

The Iowa-based chain is different than i-wireless, an MVNO headquartered in Kentucky that uses Sprint’s network to provide nationwide coverage.

T-Mobile’s move underscores its ambition to expand beyond densely populated regions into suburban and rural markets as well as smaller cities. The carrier last month launched service in Cheyenne, Wyoming, marking its first deployment of the 600 MHz airwaves it won during the FCC’s incentive auction that wrapped up earlier this year.

“T-Mobile, Aureon and our independent telephone company partners built iWireless over a period of nearly 20 years,” Aureon CEO Ron Keller said in the release. “Going forward, iWireless will benefit from T-Mobile's focus on growth and continued investments in a high-quality network experience for their customers.”

T-Mobile said it plans to expand LTE coverage from 315 million POPs today to 321 million by the end of the year, and will continue to increase its LTE footprint in Iowa and elsewhere through its new 600 MHz airwaves. The carrier plans to open 3,000 stores across the nation this year to leverage that network expansion, splitting those outlets evenly between T-Mobile outlets and MetroPCS locations. It vowed to open a total of 17,000 branded locations by the end of the year.