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UK's biggest tech retailer joins forces with Sprint to open 500 stores in US

A new joint venture between Dixons Carphone and Sprint will expand the carrier's retail operation.

"What? Yeah! Dixons Carphone is opening a bunch of Sprint stores in the US. I know!" Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

The UK's biggest technology retailer is crossing the Atlantic to provide the know-how for new Sprint stores. Just in time for Independence Day, British retail group Dixons Carphone and the US carrier today announced a joint venture that could see up to 500 new Sprint stores open their doors.

Dixons Carphone is the UK's biggest technology retail chain, while with 57 million customers, Sprint is the third-largest mobile carrier in the US, behind AT&T and Verizon. This partnership marks Dixons Carphone's first move outside the UK after the two companies' recent merger, and Sprint's latest bricks-and-mortar expansion following last year's opening of concession stands in 1,435 RadioShack stores.

To start with, Dixons Carphone will open and manage 20 Sprint-branded stores in Chicago and Miami. The first stores will open in early August and the rest will follow throughout the fall -- or autumn, depending if you're an American or a Brit.

If this pilot programme is successful, Dixons Carphone could open up to 500 more branches. The US and UK companies will each hold 50 per cent of the joint venture, which the UK group says could lead to an investment of up to £20 million (roughly $31 million).

Dixons Carphone was formed last year in a £3.8 billion ($59 billion) merger of mobile phone chain Carphone Warehouse and retail group Dixons, which owned high-street gadget stores Currys and PC World. In April this year, Carphone Warehouse started its own UK mobile network, iD. The merged group also owns retailers Elkjøp and Phone House in Europe.

With the failure of other UK-wide technology chains including Comet and Phones 4U in recent years, Dixons stores and Carphone Warehouse were in effect the last men standing for UK bricks-and-mortar tech retail. Apart from independent stores, smaller chains like Maplin and phone stores operated by the mobile networks themselves, the merged Dixons Carphone group now effectively owns the British high street when it comes to technology.

Previous attempts by tech retailers to cross the pond haven't been that successful. In 2008, pre-merger Carphone Warehouse formed a partnership with US retailer Best Buy. Best Buy eventually bought the US stores from its UK partners, but was less successful in the UK. Best Buy opened its doors in Britain in 2010 -- and ignominiously closed them less than three years later, the company dumping its stake in Carphone Warehouse for a £500 million ($775 million) loss.

Further back, Carphone Warehouse unsuccessfully attempted to enter the US market in 1987, buying American retailer Silo for £210 million ($320 million) but selling up for a £29 million ($45 million) loss six year later.