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U.S. Cellular


dkyeager

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3 hours ago, dkyeager said:

They should have sold to Tmo before they started majorly overlaying their rural footprint. Now Tmo doesn't need to buy them. Their customers are already churning to Tmo.

Robert

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The big problem with someone buying them, in my mind, is that US Cellular doesn't neatly fit into anyone's existing network.  Where I grew up, they'd be an ideal fit for AT&T, and less so for T-Mobile, but not really for Verizon.  In other places, the only competing network available at a similar scale is AT&T, with Verizon being the one that would benefit most.  And I'm sure there are places I've not seen where it's [still] T-Mobile which would fit best. 

I feel like it almost has to be split geographically before being sold.  I'm wondering if the FCC or the Justice Department would even allow a sale to a single carrier, or if it'd have to be split across two of them.

Ultimately, US Cellular's primary problem, at least where I go, is lack of density.  They depend on in-market roaming quite a bit in some areas.  The CDMA service was and still is very good, but LTE just doesn't do the job as well, and they've failed to add sites to compensate.  Meanwhile, in places where they've had to add density due to lack of spectrum, they've ended up spending money to build towers in rural areas that I'm not sure are actually needed coverage-wise if only they'd had enough spectrum.  And even in those areas, I hear complaints about hand-offs.

I'm guessing they'll end up selling at some point.  Only question is what it looks like.

- Trip

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Net income is still positive.  I would imagine if they start trending negative in their finances, they would just sell off some spectrum assets, markets or portions of markets that are less profitable first.

I wouldn't be surprised to see them even go private. 

Edited by red_dog007
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  • 1 month later...

UScellular Launches 5G Mid-Band Network

https://newsroom.uscellular.com/uscellular-launches-5g-mid-band-network/

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UScellular today announced the launch of its 5G mid-band network, with customers in parts of 10 states who now have access to the benefits of the company’s faster and stronger network. 

By the end of June, UScellular’s 5G mid-band network will be available mainly in parts of Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin, including sections of Rockford, Ill., Des Moines, Iowa and Milwaukee. Communities in Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Virginia and Washington are also included in the initial rollout. By the end of the year, the company plans to cover more than 1 million households in its operating footprint with its 5G mid-band network.

 

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  • 1 month later...

US Cellular is for sale!!

 

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51 minutes ago, dkyeager said:

US Cellular is for sale!!

 

They should have sold themselves 10 years ago.  Now that T-Mobile has overbuilt most of their territory, there's not much value to them.  Although USCC does have some decent spectrum in the places it exists. But a lot of Cellular spectrum, which Tmo just got rid of their last one.

Seems like either Verizon or ATT could sweep in.

Robert

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What's interesting is that given how widespread roaming on US Cellular is (T-Mo and AT&T these days, as far as I know), a purchase will likely spur further improvements from the others. 

A buy by T-Mobile or Verizon would mean AT&T would need to either do a roaming deal with one or both of them for FirstNet, or they'd have to build out more there.  A buy by Verizon or AT&T would mean T-Mobile would either need to expand the roaming deal with AT&T, sign a new one with Verizon, or build out more. 

I've been told that some of the areas without native service aren't built because US Cellular roaming is so cheap that it's not worth it.  But if that goes away...

- Trip

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I'm guessing VZW will buy, then spin 600 + lower 700 + 3.45 out, potentially all to T-Mobile. VZW seems to like buying up carriers for their B5 licenses, regardless of customer base size, so this wouldn't be much different. VZW could even hold onto 600/700A and run CDMA on a sliver of 850 for a bit to provide a more seamless transition to customers, swapping all customers to VZW but leaving those bands up for customers to roam back onto before dropping the entire thing. Guessing VZW would have to divest 600/700A anyway to make regulators happy.

I don't think T-Mobile would want the network/customers enough, given their continued overbuild, and AT&T is probably in the same boat. Also, USCC's mmW FWA matches VZW's M.O. more than AT&T/T-Mobile's, so the positive headway USCC has made there is gonna be more valuable to Verizon.

But yeah, USCC is very much sub-scale, and between customer attrition and roaming overbuilds on the mobile side it's getting more and more iffy to run their own mobile network. Better to sell when the FWA customers are continuing to come in...and the mobile customers haven't all left yet.

I figure this transaction will happen by year-end 2023, with network phase-out by year-end 2024.

I kinda wish Dish was at a spot where they could buy the 600 spectrum as part of this transaction, but I don't think they'll have enough money in time, unless the buyer of everything else basically gives them the spectrum.

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Oh, and USCC owns a bit more than 4k towers. Betting Crown Castle or American Tower would happily take those off their hands. Though my guess is Dish won't be terribly happy with that transaction, as it sounds like Dish is renting site space from USCC in a number of places.

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3 hours ago, iansltx said:

Oh, and USCC owns a bit more than 4k towers. Betting Crown Castle or American Tower would happily take those off their hands. Though my guess is Dish won't be terribly happy with that transaction, as it sounds like Dish is renting site space from USCC in a number of places.

Most of Dish's network build is on towers owned by ATC, CC, and SBA, so I'm not sure how much of a difference it makes.

Separately, it's possible they continue to own the towers as they are.  That's what Shentel did when T-Mobile bought out the Shentel network; they separated the tower part of the business out and hung onto it.  I know Dish is on a dozen or so Shentel-owned towers.

- Trip

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A sale of U.S. Cellular is pretty much a spectrum sale for the Big 3.

Best case scenario, T-Mobile buys them and sells off all of their Band 5 AT&T and Verizon, and the towers to whoever wants it. Worst case, AT&T buys them and keeps pretty much all of their spectrum, only selling off 600MHz to T-Mobile. If Dish were in a better financial position I would have loved to see them buyout U.S. Cellular and have an immediate presence in rural areas. Maybe U.S. Cellular can hold out until Dish gets its house in order.

That said, given U.S. Cellular's size as the last "big" regional carrier I don't think regulators will be happy to see Verizon take over them without significant concessions or see T-Mobile take them over given they got away with a massive merger with Sprint just 3 years ago. AT&T would likely face the least pushback.

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I would like to point out that US Cellular also owns some Band 41 licenses.  Not a ton, but some.  I would have to imagine that spectrum will ultimately end up with T-Mobile regardless of buyer as well, similar to 600 MHz.

- Trip

Edited by Trip
D'oh.
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It will be interesting how US Cellular structures the sale.  Could be to one bidder of course, but it may fetch more broken up. For example, Dish could buy the customers and each band for each area could be sold separately. Cell towes could go to American Towers etc.  Even one bidder could end up doing basically the same.

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3 hours ago, dkyeager said:

It will be interesting how US Cellular structures the sale.  Could be to one bidder of course, but it may fetch more broken up. For example, Dish could buy the customers and each band for each area could be sold separately. Cell towes could go to American Towers etc.  Even one bidder could end up doing basically the same.

Dish may not want the customers if a lot of them are outside of the areas they plan to provide native coverage. Or they'd have to plan to overlay USCC coverage with their own, but they would also need additional spectrum to do so as they are missing 600 etc licenses in many USCC areas.

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16 minutes ago, Yuhfhrh said:

Dish may not want the customers if a lot of them are outside of the areas they plan to provide native coverage. Or they'd have to plan to overlay USCC coverage with their own, but they would also need additional spectrum to do so as they are missing 600 etc licenses in many USCC areas.

Dish Current has excellent roaming deals with AT&T and T-Mobile.  Rumor is they may require minimum volume.

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4 hours ago, dkyeager said:

Dish Current has excellent roaming deals with AT&T and T-Mobile.  Rumor is they may require minimum volume.

I just don't think Dish has money to buy more customers to spend more money on roaming, and then eventually build out additional coverage or cancel those customers afterwards years down the line for not being in native Dish coverage.

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12 minutes ago, Yuhfhrh said:

I just don't think Dish has money to buy more customers to spend more money on roaming, and then eventually build out additional coverage or cancel those customers afterwards years down the line for not being in native Dish coverage.

Depends on the price. No need for the national carriers to offer anything. Time will tell

 

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  • 1 month later...

Observed yesterday, via roaming on my S21FE.

https://imgur.com/a/VYP1iyi

Looked for it at several other sites and picked it up at two of them.  It's running in Charlotte Court House, Keysville, and Pamplin.  Didn't observe it at the three sites I passed in Farmville or any of the rural sites I went by.

Signal strength seems to be about 20 dB weaker than the B66 carrier, even with line of sight.

My current US Cellular phone (a Moto One 5G Ace) doesn't support B48, so I might need to figure out a way to shuffle my phones a bit.

- Trip

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