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Sprint Buying U.S. Cellular Market in Chicago, Central Illinois

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Sprint, the third-largest U.S. cellphone carrier, is buying spectrum and 585,000 customers in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio. U.S. Cellular said 980 jobs will be lost with the sale. Sprint isn't taking over any employees.

Sprint is buying U.S. Cellular markets in the Midwest for $480 million to boost its network capacity in that region.

Sprint Nextel Corp., the third-largest U.S. cellphone carrier, said Wednesday that it is buying spectrum and 585,000 customers in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio. That covers about 10 percent of U.S. Cellular's customer base and includes its key Chicago and St. Louis markets.

The move will mean 160 lost jobs in Chicago, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The acquisition should give a needed boost to the Overland Park, Kan.-based company's network. Sprint doesn't have as much available spectrum, or space on the airwaves, as the larger carriers do. That holds back its network speeds somewhat.

Chicago-based U.S. Cellular Corp. said the sale will help it focus on its strongest markets.

The acquisition, which remains subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close in the middle of next year.

Also on Wednesday, U.S. Cellular said its third-quarter net income dropped 43 percent, as the company subsidized sales of new smartphones.

U.S. Cellular earned $35.5 million, or 42 cents per share, down from $62.1 million, or 73 cents per share, in the same quarter last year. Revenue rose 3 percent to $1.14 billion.

Sprint shares fell 4 cents to $5.69 in premarket trading. U.S. Cellular Corp. shares were unchanged from Tuesday's close of $39.02.

Chicago's White Sox won't see their stadium name change, though, the Tribune reports. U.S. Cellular Field remains.

Customers who have questions about the switchover can visit the U.S. Cellular Information Resource Center for more information.

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