Friday, February 17, 2017

US Cellular - The Next National Carrier?

Yesterday, US Cellular filed a notice with the Securities Exchange Commission that they will be paying $327 Million to the FCC for spectrum they apparently won in the recent 600 MHz wireless spectrum auction.  They weren't supposed to reveal any results, yet, but US Cellular had to submit an 8-k form to the SEC and they must have decided that takes priority.

Each time US Cellular buys up some spectrum, the rumors fly that they will be making a run at expanding coast to coast.  Currently, US Cellular serves part or all of 26 states.  As one of our most favored carriers in the Mountain Wireless Ratings, it would indeed be great to see them compete in the national wireless arena.  However, there is little likelihood of them going national.  In previous FCC spectrum auctions, US Cellular added new spectrum in and around their already-established coverage areas.  And at a paltry $327 Million purchase price, that's about all they will be able to gain  from this auction as well.

On top of that, US Cellular would be entering the wireless arena at one of the most competitive periods in wireless history, maybe not so not good for the bottom line.  It appears they want to continue as a dominant carrier in rural areas demonstrated by their 2013 sale of assets of their then-largest market, Chicago, to Sprint.  The good news is that with more spectrum purchases, users living in US Cellular territory will get even better service.  The 600 MHz spectrum works very well in rural areas.

US Cellular is owned by individuals who have expressed no desire to sell out, so we applaud their efforts to be the best they can be.  There will be more news from the latest spectrum auction but this peek under the tent gives us just a little candy to chew on until the big news starts to roll.

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