While larger carriers like AT&T and Verizon are duking it out to cover the country in LTE signal, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there are other contenders in the ring too. Case in point: U.S. Cellular, the nation’s sixth largest wireless provider, announced earlier today that they plan to light up their forthcoming 4G LTE network in 14 additional states before the year is out.
U.S. Cellular revealed earlier this month that their LTE network would go live some time in March, and would initially cover “select cities in Wisconsin, Maine, Iowa, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas.”
Today’s announcement adds quite a few locales to that list — selected cities within Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin will eventually be able to take advantage of U.S. Cellular’s new network. Given that wireless spectrum access is becoming increasingly difficult to come by, U.S. Cellular has partnered up with Virginia-based King Street Wireless to help make their big LTE push a reality.
By the time the full rollout is completed (and barring any unforeseen circumstances), U.S. Cellular’s LTE network will cover roughly 54% of their total subscriber base. It may not sound like much compared to Verizon and AT&T’s leaps and bounds in coverage, but it seems to put U.S. Cellular ahead of rival MetroPCS, whose own LTE network is currently live in 14 markets across the country.
These new LTE markets are expected to go live in the second half of 2012, and those customers will have some new hardware to play with by then. In addition to some Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Galaxy S variants, U.S. Cellular has announced that an LTE-friendly Samsung mobile hotspot will be ready to aid road-warriors and web junkies as soon as this spring. More LTE smartphones and hotspots are in the works too, and with any luck U.S. Cellular customers will have a sizable LTE device portfolio to sort through before long.