T-Mobile Is Buying US Cellular's Wireless Unit in $4.4 Billion Deal

Fresh off its purchase of Mint Mobile, T-Mobile has gone shopping again.

Eli Blumenthal Senior Editor
Eli Blumenthal is a senior editor at CNET with a particular focus on covering the latest in the ever-changing worlds of telecom, streaming and sports. He previously worked as a technology reporter at USA Today.
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Eli Blumenthal
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T-Mobile is getting larger. On Tuesday the wireless provider announced that it's buying US Cellular's wireless operation in a $4.4 billion deal. The purchase will include US Cellular's 4.5 million wireless users, its retail stores and "certain specified spectrum assets." 

Expected to close in "mid-2025" the move would give US Cellular's users access to T-Mobile's network, plans and services. A regional wireless provider, USCellular operates its own network in 21 states across the country. 

According to T-Mobile, US Cellular users will "have the option to stay on their current plans or move to an unlimited T-Mobile plan of their choosing with no switching costs." T-Mobile made a similar promise when it bought Sprint back in 2020.

Read more: Rates on Some Older T-Mobile Plans Are Going Up

Once the deal closes, US Cellular users will be able to tap into T-Mobile's 5G network, which T-Mobile says will help those in "underserved rural areas." If you're on T-Mobile, you'll be able to connect and roam on US Cellular's network in areas where it lacks strong coverage. T-Mobile says the extra capacity it's acquiring will also allow it to continue to expand its home internet offerings. 

"As customers from both companies will get more coverage and more capacity from our combined footprint, our competitors will be forced to keep up -- and even more consumers will benefit," T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said in a press release announcing the deal. "The Un-carrier is all about shaking up wireless for the good of consumers and this deal is another way for us to continue doing even more of that."

In addition to acquiring US Cellular's wireless customers, T-Mobile will also buy around 30% of US Cellular's wireless spectrum and it'll lease space on more of the company's cell towers. Per US Cellular, T-Mobile will extend its leases on the roughly 600 towers it currently rents space on, and T-Mobile says it's also leasing space on "at least 2,100 additional towers." 

US Cellular says that this will "ensure continued, uninterrupted service for US Cellular customers following the transaction" while also creating a "long-term contracted revenue stream" for its remaining business that will consist of cell towers and wireless spectrum. 

The exact spectrum bands that T-Mobile is acquiring and which spectrum US Cellular will be retaining was not immediately known, though T-Mobile tells CNET it will include US Cellular's 600 MHz and 2.5GHz holdings alongside additional airwaves. US Cellular tells CNET that it, "will have more details on the customer benefits in the weeks to come."  

The sale of US Cellular assets was expected for a while among wireless industry watchers with recent reports suggesting that it would sell to T-Mobile or Verizon. The regional carrier has struggled lately, and last August announced that it was looking for "strategic alternatives" for the company. 

In the event that the deal isn't completed because regulators block it, T-Mobile would pay US Cellular a $60 million "breakup" fee. 

As for T-Mobile, this is the latest move as the carrier looks to continue to grow. It completed its purchase of Sprint four years ago and earlier this month it closed its purchase of prepaid provider Mint Mobile and its sister brands. The acquisitions have helped vault T-Mobile to becoming the second largest wireless provider in the US, leapfrogging AT&T and trailing only Verizon.