U.S. Cellular to launch 5-7 LTE devices in 2012

U.S. Cellular plans to launch between five and seven LTE devices in 2012, including tablets, smartphones and other gadgets, as it seeks to lure more subscribers, according to TDS CEO Ted Carlson. (TDS is the parent company of U.S. Cellular.)

Carlson said that the first LTE device the regional carrier launches will be a tablet, by the end of the first quarter. That will be followed shortly by U.S. Cellular's first LTE handset as well as a mobile hotspot. Toward the end of 2012, Carlson said U.S. Cellular will add three to four more LTE devices to its lineup. "I'm very excited," he said, speaking at the Citi Global Entertainment, Media & Telecommunications Conference.

The TDS chief said U.S. Cellular is committed to deploying LTE to 24 markets--25 percent of the company's footprint--in the first quarter. The carrier had previously promised to deploy the network to 25 percent of its footprint by the end of 2011, but that timeline now appears to be slipping into the first quarter. The regional carrier, which operates in 26 states, has said that its full LTE buildout likely will take three years to complete, and that it will likely cover another 25 percent of its footprint by the end of 2012.

Interestingly, Carlson also said that in the wake of the collapse of AT&T's (NYSE:T) proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA, U.S. Cellular remains interested in acquiring more spectrum, especially 700 MHz spectrum because of its propagation characteristics. However, he said the company is also interested in deepening its holdings of PCS and AWS spectrum. 

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