U.S. Cellular can claim that it's beaten Sprint and T-Mobile to LTE deployment, but for the Chicago-based regional carrier, a single device in a tiny market is just the beginning.
U.S. Cellular makes good today on a February promise to launch its 4G LTE market with a tablet.
Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 marks U.S. Cellular's first LTE offering, making it the fourth U.S. carrier (behind MetroPCS, Verizon, and AT&T) to offer devices on the LTE, or Long Term Evolution, technology for 4G data speeds.
The Galaxy Tab 10.1 slate, which has been available unlocked and with other carriers for months, features Android Honeycomb OS, a 10.1-inch WXGA touch screen (a 1280x800 HD resolution), a 1 GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, 32GB memory, and a set of cameras.
U.S. Cellular will sell the LTE version of the tablet for $499.99 after a $100 mail-in rebate--but for a "limited time," customers in current and upcoming LTE markets will be able to buy the device for $399.99 after the same rebate.
King Street Wireless--which serves 700 MHz wireless spectrum in 27 states--powers U.S. Cellular's 4G LTE network. Together, the two will deploy LTE to 25 percent of U.S. Cellular's market in cities like Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Davenport, Iowa; Portland and Bangor, Maine; Greenville, N.C.; and Madison, Milwaukee, and Racine, Wis. By the year's end, U.S. Cellular plans to cover 54 percent of its footprint.
Back in February, U.S. Cellular also named a second LTE device, and their first LTE smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S Aviator. The Android handset is set to run Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread on a 4.3-inch WVGA Super AMOLED Plus touch screen. It will also sport an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, and a front-facing camera for video chats.
U.S. carriers have raced to build 4G LTE infrastructure, starting with MetroPCS back in September 2010. Verizon was the first to deploy LTE on a larger scale, using standard equipment, and currently outpaces its second-largest rival, AT&T in coverage and handsets (infographic).
U.S. Cellular will have a long way to go to transition its portfolio from 3G to 4G for its 6.1 million customers in 26 states. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is certainly a beginning, but introducing a raft of new, faster smartphones will be its real test.