The nation's seventh-largest wireless provider U.S. Cellular announced a plan to offer its 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) customers an unlimited data plan—but only for a limited time.
The deal offers customers an unlimited 4G data plan for $40 per month, with an additional $20 per month; this allows users to tether another wireless device to the smartphone, although that requires a separate, tiered data plan. The offering is only good through Jan. 31 of next year.
U.S. Cellular recently expanded its 4G LTE service to customers in Iowa, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, and rolled out 4G LTE service to some of its leading markets in Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia. By the end of the year, 58 percent of U.S. Cellular's customers will have access to 4G LTE speeds, the company said.
The carrier currently offers eight 4G LTE devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy Note II and the Motorola Electrify M. U.S. Cellular is also offering $100 instant rebates on some of its smartphones, including the Galaxy S III for $199 and the Huawei Ascend Y for just a penny. And customers who purchase any smartphone or tablet can get the 4G LTE Samsung SCH-LC11 hotspot for free.
Other carriers that offer unlimited 4G LTE plans include T-Mobile, which starts at $89.99 a month and runs up to $124.99 a month with Mobile HotSpot service—which allows users to connect up to five WiFi devices. MetroPCS also offers an unlimited 4G data plan—with a caveat. The MetroPCS plan costs $40 per month, but only the first 250MB of data at 4G LTE speeds is included. Once the limit is reached, data speeds will be reduced for the rest of the plan billing cycle.
Earlier this month, U.S. Cellular announced a deal to sell its Chicago, St. Louis, central Illinois and three other Midwest markets to subsidiaries of Sprint Nextel for $480 million. The sale includes Personal Communications Service (PCS) spectrum and approximately 585,000 customers, or about 10 percent of U.S. Cellular's total customer base. The purchase should help Sprint further its rollout of LTE technology, which is still very much playing catch-up to the increasingly extensive LTE networks of Verizon Wireless and AT&T.
The added subscribers could also give Sprint a bit more leveraging power in an ever-more competitive market. T-Mobile and MetroPCS in October announced plans to merge and aggressively focus on the prepaid sector and value-minded customers—areas that have been defining for Sprint.