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U.S. Cellular Sells Off Chicago Market, But ‘The Cell’ Remains The Same

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U.S. Cellular Field. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

U.S. Cellular Field. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – If you’re a U.S. Cellular customer in the Chicago area, you’ll be getting a new wireless provider, after the company announced it is selling its Chicago market to rival Sprint.

CBS 2’s Ed Curran reports the move will means hundreds of lost jobs in the Chicago area, but won’t cause any changes for U.S. Cellular Field, the White Sox’ home stadium.

It’s a deal worth $480 million, as U.S. cellular sells its markets in Chicago, St. Louis, and a number of other Midwest cities to Sprint.

A total of 585,000 customers will switch to Sprint. That’s about 10 percent of U.S. Cellular’s customer base.

U.S. Cellular CEO Mary Dillon said it’s all about long term profitable growth.

“It allows us to focus on markets where we have really strong market positions, and we’re exiting markets where we have a less-strong market position,” she said. “Not an easy decision, but it’s the right decision for the long-term for our company.”

A total of 640 jobs will be lost in the Chicago area, but another 1,400 will remain, as U.S. Cellular will keep its corporate headquarters in the city.

For Dillon, a Chicago native, keeping the company headquarters in Chicago was important.

What should you expect if you’re a U.S. Cellular customer?

“If you’re a customer here, just know that we’re here to serve you and we’ll make this as seamless as possible,” Dillon said.

The deal won’t mean the White Sox’ home ballpark will switch names from U.S. Cellular Field to Sprint Field. Naming rights to the stadium were not part of the deal.

“We are proud of our partnership with the Chicago White Sox, and the great experience that people have at U.S. Cellular Field,” Dillon said. “The naming rights are not part of the transaction for Sprint, so we retain that relationship with the White Sox, and we look forward to that.”

In 2003, U.S. cellular bought the naming rights to the Sox’ ballpark for $68 million for 23 years, although most people just call the stadium “The Cell,” or Comiskey Park – its original name – or even Sox Park.

The deal is good news for Sprint, giving it almost 600,000 more customers, and more cellular frequencies. That will allow Sprint to expand their high-speed network.

It’s expected that the handoff from U.S. Cellular to Sprint will happen around the middle of next year.

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