U.S. Cellular announces LTE hotspot, details rollout plans

U.S. Cellular provided further details on its planned LTE rollout. The carrier listed a number of additional markets in which it will deploy the network technology, and it also added a third device to its LTE lineup: the Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot, which will join the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Samsung Galaxy S Aviator smartphone. U.S. Cellular said the gadgets will launch sometime in the spring; it did not provide pricing or more specific information.

U.S. Cellular said that, by the second half of 2012, customers in more than 3,600 additional cities and towns in urban and rural areas will have access to its 4G LTE speeds, which the carrier said will be "up to 10 times faster than 3G and similar to a cable Internet connection." The carrier said it plans to cover 54 percent of its current customer base with LTE by the end of this year. The carrier's LTE network will cover select cities in Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

A U.S. Cellular representative did not immediately respond to questions on the topic, including what U.S. Cellular will charge for its LTE services, what exact speeds it expects to provide or what type of network configuration it will use.

The carrier's announcement essentially fills in the details of its previously announced deployment plans. Earlier this month, the carrier said it would cover 25 percent of its footprint by March and another 25 percent by the end of 2012. The regional carrier, which operates in 26 states, has said that its full LTE buildout likely will take three years to complete.

The buildout is critical to U.S. Cellular, which continues to battle against larger nationwide rivals like Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), which are in the midst of their own LTE rollouts.

In the third quarter, U.S. Cellular reported a net loss of 23,000 retail customers. The carrier ended the quarter with a total of 5.62 million customers. U.S. Cellular has not yet said when it will report its fourth-quarter results.

For more:
- see this release
- see this CNET article
- see this TechCrunch article

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