US Cellular is the 5th largest carrier in the United States. They are the last of the super regionals, carriers that are not nationwide, but have a market share on par with the big 4 in their coverage area. US Cellular frequently gets Android flagship phones at the same time as the 4 national carriers. However, this article isn’t about what they have. It’s about what they don’t have: the iPhone.
The story of the iPhone and US Cellular dates back to 2011 when C-Spire became the 4th carrier after The 4S announcement that brought Sprint into the fold. While the other Regionals and even prepaid carriers quickly fell in, US Cellular and T-Mobile were the notable holdouts. CEO Mary Dillon publically balked at Apple’s terms. It proved disastrous for US Cellular leading to lost customers and bad financial results. After the iPhone 5 release, T-Mobile finally relented and got an updated version of the AT&T 5 with AWS HSPA+ support. In May this US Cellular announced that it would end its holdout and sell the iPhone as well. This happened basically as Mary Dillon was leaving the company for cosmetics retailer Ulta. At the same time, US Cellular was also refarming its Band V 850mhz spectrum for LTE to join its existing band 12 700mhz network. All seemed well for US Cellular and the iPhone.
Then the 5C and 5S announcement happened. Their new wireless chips supported basically every LTE spectrum out there. That is except for US Cellular’s band 12. On top of that, there was no mention of US Cellular. However, that’s not unusual. Regional and prepaid carriers typically get the phone after the Big 4 when the rush is over and supplies improve. Then we got a date for the regional carriers, October 1st. US Cellular was notably absent from the list.
So, what happened? Truth is we don’t know. It could be that US Cellular could require a larger supply than Apple can currently meet. It could be that the deal simply fell apart and US Cellular’s announcement was simply premature for either technical or financial reasons. I’m going to reach out to US Cellular and try to find some answers. If you’re someone who is dead set on a US Cellular iPhone, I wouldn’t give up hope just yet.
@CaliLewis We will be offering the iPhone very soon. We don't have any more details that we can share quite yet. Stay tuned. ^AH
— U.S. Cellular (@USCellularCares) September 27, 2013
In a response from US Cellular, they have confirmed to us that they plan to sell both the iPhone 5S and 5C. However, they do not have release details at this time. For LTE, they will only use the 850mhz Band 5 LTE which is currently being deployed and not the established band 12.