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Sprint pays US Cellular $480 million for Midwest spectrum and customers (update 2: 980 jobs lost)

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Sprint has cemented a deal with US Cellular to pick up its PCS spectrum and around 585,000 customers across the Midwest. The deal will land the newly-owned company 30MHz within the 1900 MHz band across Illinois, Indian, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio, with the carrier stating that it'll be putting the extra spectrum to use augmenting its coverage while it continues to roll out 4G.

US Cellular will apparently continue business elsewhere, once the deal passes regulatory approval some time year, stating that it aims to "increase focus on markets where it has strong positions" and "streamline operations" -- probably involving its own 4G expansion plans.

Update: There's a gray cloud to the silver lining. US Cellular warns that over 1,000 jobs will be cut as part of the network handover, most of them a mix of corporate and retail staff based in Chicago. It also says that the network offload reflects the challenges it has getting customers in larger cities: they're both more expensive up-front and generate twice as much subscriber turnover as in less densely-packed areas. The Sprint deal should wrap up by mid-2013 if all goes according to plan.

Update 2: US Cellular has revised its own job figures and now says the exact tally is 980. While it's only so much comfort to those affected, the exact amount is slightly more reassuring.

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