Chicago-based US Cellular, which agreed a deal to sell PCS spectrum and subscribers covering Chicago, St Louis, central Illinois and three other Midwest markets to Sprint Nextel for USD480 million in November 2012, has confirmed that the 585,000 customer accounts affected by the deal will need to buy new handsets because their existing devices are incompatible with Sprint’s network. According to the Chicago Tribune, the letter sent to affected subscribers reads: ‘Your US Cellular device will not work on Sprint’s network. After the transition period, you will need to obtain a new Sprint device, if you select to use Sprint service. Sprint has a wide portfolio of competitive devices to meet your needs’. Officials at US Cellular and Sprint emphasised that they are working to make the transition a smooth one. Dave Kimbell, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at US Cellular, says he expects Sprint to offer ‘aggressive’ pricing on new phones and ‘strong and clear’ incentives for affected customers. He commented: ‘We understand that there’s anxiety and frustration, and cellular service is important to everyone. We completely respect this and we’ll make this transition as smooth and easy for our current customers as possible. There is no reason to worry today’.
US Cellular customers that opt for a carrier other than Sprint will not be charged an early termination fee, according to the letter. They will also be able to port their phone numbers to Sprint or a different wireless provider. US Cellular stores in affected markets are no longer actively selling phones, offering promotions or subsidising the cost of new devices.