U.S. Cellular will light up its LTE network in six states next month, covering about a quarter of its customers in Iowa, Wisconsin, Maine, North Carolina, Texas and Oklahoma.

The regional operator's first foray into the LTE space will help it keep pace with larger competitors like AT&T and Verizon Wireless that already offer LTE service.

The March rollout will hit several of U.S. Cellular's most important markets including Milwaukee, Madison and Racine, Wis.; Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport, Iowa; Portland and Bangor, Maine; and Greenville, N.C. 

U.S. Cellular hasn't provided a hard date for the start of its commercial LTE operations and plans to announce additional markets later this month.

Its first LTE devices will be the Android-based Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet and the Galaxy S Aviator smartphone. The Galaxy Tab will hit shelves when the network launches, "followed shortly" by the Aviator.

U.S. Cellular has limited spectrum assets and is using 700 MHz spectrum owned by King Street Wireless to run its LTE network in "several " markets. King Street Wireless holds 700 MHz spectrum in 27 states.

The company is working to reverse a long series of customer losses which have continued despite CEO Mary Dillon's attempts to increase customer loyalty through the Belief Project, which rewards long-term customers with faster phone upgrades, discounts and reward points.

Sequential quarterly losses dropped U.S. Cellular's subscriber base to 5.93 million at the end of September 2011, from 6.1 million the previous year. The company has not yet said when it will announce its fourth-quarter results.