5G and Beyond

U.S. Cellular's New 'Fairness' Campaign to Include Rural 5G Component

Amid slowing growth and increasingly heated competition, U.S. Cellular unveiled a new branding campaign centered around the notion that it provides fairness in terms of its network, its pricing and its employee activities in its markets. And perhaps not surprisingly, the company said there will be a 5G component to its message.

"It's time to reintroduce ourselves to consumers and to give them unique and compelling reasons to choose and stay with U.S. Cellular," Jay Spenchian, the operator's SVP of marketing, said in a release.

In terms of 5G, the company said it would make sure "consumers in more rural areas aren't left out from getting access to the latest tech and fast data speeds by building its 5G network like it has in the past, starting in areas where other carriers are not." U.S. Cellular did not provide any further details about exactly how it might get that message across.

It's noteworthy that U.S. Cellular is hoping to parlay 5G into its new "fairness" marketing effort -- in doing so, it would be countering the likes of AT&T and Verizon that are increasingly using 5G in their own marketing and branding efforts.

U.S. Cellular announced earlier this year it would use 5G equipment from vendors Nokia and Ericsson to launch the technology sometime in 2020. And U.S. Cellular's CTO recently told Light Reading that the operator would reserve its 600MHz spectrum solely for 5G, and would also deploy the technology in its new 24GHz and 28GHz millimeter-wave spectrum licenses.

U.S. Cellular released a video touting its new "fairness" branding campaign:

For "fair" pricing U.S. Cellular said it offers a unique "payback" plan that returns $10 to customers who use less than 3GB of data per line in a month. The company also just last month reduced the cost of its unlimited data plan, to four lines of unlimited data for $30 per month per line. The offering starts at $55 per month for one line.

U.S. Cellular executives hinted at the company's branding campaign during its recent quarterly earnings call with investors. U.S. Cellular chief executive Ken Meyers said that the company would couple new promotional efforts with other initiatives like faster wireless network technologies and a refreshed online sales process. A U.S. Cellular representative added that the company is planning a website refresh that will "incorporate the look and feel of our brand evolution and include fairness messaging for consumers who want to do business with us online."

The representative added that the operator will push its new advertising campaign across TV, radio, print and digital advertising, but would not say how much U.S. Cellular would spend on the effort.

That U.S. Cellular is looking to refresh its marketing message comes as little surprise. With around 5 million mobile customers across parts of Texas, Washington state, Maine, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Tennessee and elsewhere, the company is the fifth-largest wireless network operator in the United States in terms of customers. But U.S. Cellular recently has been feeling the heat from new market entrants like Comcast's Xfinity Mobile and Charter Communications' Spectrum Mobile.

Specifically, U.S. Cellular reported a loss of 26,000 mobile customers in its most recent quarter, a figure above analyst expectations and also above the 13,000 customers it lost in the same quarter a year ago. The company attributed the loss in part to encroachment from unnamed cable players into the mobile business.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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