Nearly one-half million U.S. Cellular customers are at a crossroads.
By summer’s end, at least 420,000 subscribers across the Midwest will be in need of a mobile network. That much became clear on Friday when Sprint finalized a $480 million deal that will transfer all of U.S. Cellular’s spectrum in Chicago, St. Louis and the general surrounding area to Sprint.
This is no mere transfer of network title, though. Sprint plans to shut down U.S. Cellular’s network completely some time in those two metropolitan regions in the next several months (Champagne, Ill., and South Bend, Ind., will also be affected).
“Despite the fact that U.S. Cellular’s systems uses the same CDMA technology in the same PCS frequencies, Sprint isn’t supporting its existing handsets,” says Kevin Fitchard of Gigaom. “All of those customers must either start over with new devices and new service plans on the Sprint network or go find a new mobile operator entirely.”
Kevin Gleason, Sprint Regional VP for the Midwest, believes Sprint will both make the transition for these U.S. Cellular customers easy and particularly inviting to join the Sprint network.
“I believe our recapture rate will be high,” Gleason projects. “We’ve already started communicating with them and several of them have already made the switch.”