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U.S. Cellular Will Begin Offering Apple Products This Year

U.S. Cellular Corp., a Chicago-based provider of mobile-phone service, expects to get Apple Inc. products later this year, joining the country’s four largest carriers in offering the devices.

The company agreed to purchase $1.2 billion worth of iPhones from Apple over a three year period starting later this year, the wireless carrier said today in a regulatory filing.

“We have a number of strategies in progress to increase loyalty and attract more customers, including our announcement today that we will begin offering Apple products later this year,” Chief Executive Officer Mary Dillon said in a statement. “By further strengthening our device portfolio, we’ll give consumers another great reason to switch to U.S. Cellular.”

Apple’s iPhone, the best-selling smartphone in the U.S., may help the company compete with larger carriers. U.S. Cellular also is rolling out a speedier network based on long-term evolution, or LTE, technology. Still, the network expansion is increasing capital-spending costs and revenue will probably decline this year, according to analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

U.S. Cellular also agreed to sell operations in Chicago, St. Louis and other markets to Sprint Nextel Corp. in November, a move that will reap $480 million but decrease the size of its footprint.

Shares fell 2.8 percent to $37.38 at the close in New York. The stock has climbed 6.1 percent this year.

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