Sprint buyout means US Cellular users will need new phones - Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

Sprint buyout means US Cellular users will need new phones

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Sprint's $480 million deal with Chicago-based U.S. Cellular should be final in a few weeks. Only now are thousands of local phone users learning how it's going to disrupt their lives.

All the cell phones that U.S. Cellular subscribers are using now will be turned off by the end of the year and they'll have to get new phones. Many are unhappy.

"I like my phone," says angry U.S. Cellular subscriber Allison Kumke from Palos Hills. "So I don't want to have to get a new one. And we just switched to US Cellular, so it sucks to have to switch again."

Outside U.S. Cellular Field Friday night, many Sox fans were still coming to terms with the news. A Chicago corporate giant, whose name is nearly synonymous with South Side baseball, is closing its retail business phone business here.

"I guess its more shock and disappointment than anything," says Anthony Marchetti, whose family is full of longtime US Cellular users. "We would have stayed with US Cellular. We would have been happy to upgrade and use the rewards points and systems that they offered."

That's not an option now. Needing cash to install 4th generation service networks across the country, U.S. Cellular decided to sell to Sprint in areas where its market share was low. Ironically, that included its headquarters city, Chicago. U.S. Cellular plans to stay here with about 1,400 employees. It will eventually close retail outlets that now employ another 640.

The home of the White Sox will continue to be called U.S. Cellular Field, the result of a $68 million deal the company signed with the Sox in 2003. It runs through 2026.

While the company is turning over to Sprint all its subscribers based in Chicago, U.S. Cellular will continue to compete in Peoria, Rockford and some other parts of Downstate. A spokesman said those U.S. Cellular subscribers would still have 3G phone service when they visited Chicago.

Sox fan Maria Lopez is especially disappointed. She says she'll never forget how reliable U.S. Cellular was during her son's two combat tours in the Middle East.

"They were really good," Lopez says. "I never had a dropped call....and i never had a drop."

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