T-Mobile has today (May 28) confirmed that it has reached an agreement to acquire a big chunk of regional mobile operator US Cellular for around $4.4 billion.

The carrier said it will pay for the assets through a combination of cash and up to $2 billion of debt to be assumed by T-Mobile as part of an exchange offer to be made to certain US Cellular debtholders before closing. 

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The announcement comes weeks after reports emerged that T-Mobile was close to agreeing a deal to buy assets from the regional carrier.

US Cellular is one of the biggest regional cell carriers outside the big three of AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. It serves four million mobiles across 21 US states, in mostly rural areas.

T-Mobile said that following the closing of the transaction, US Cellular will retain ownership of its other spectrum plus its towers, with T-Mobile entering into a long-term arrangement to lease space on at least 2,100 additional towers being retained.

As part of the transaction, T-Mobile will acquire around 30 percent of US Cellular's wireless spectrum.

T-Mobile does not expect the transaction to impact the company’s 2024 guidance or 2024 authorized shareholder return program.

"As customers from both companies will get more coverage and more capacity from our combined footprint, our competitors will be forced to keep up – and even more consumers will benefit," said Mike Sievert, CEO of T-Mobile.

The acquisition is expected to expand T-Mobile's coverage across rural areas, which it notes are often underserved by the bigger carriers.

The transaction is expected to close midway through next year, subject to regulatory approval.

T-Mobile, which acquired and merged with Sprint in 2020 in a $26bn deal, recently closed its $1.35 billion acquisition of Ka’ena Corporation plus its subsidiaries and brands. These include Mint Mobile and Ultra Mobile, a wireless service offering international calling options to communities across the country, plus wholesaler Plum.

Ka'ena's collective three brands are estimated to have between two to three million subscribers.

Arguably the biggest asset of the acquisition is MVNO Mint Mobile, which runs off of T-Mobile's mobile network.

Verizon has also been linked over a deal to acquire some assets from US Cellular, though it's not known when an agreement is expected.