Boosting its spectrum capacity and ability to provide fourth-generation wireless broadband services, Sprint Nextel agreed this week to purchase wireless network assets owned in the Midwest by US Cellular Corp. for $480 million in cash. Following on Sprint’s $20 billion agreement last month to sell a 70% controlling stake to Softbank Corp. of Japan, the transaction, announced on Wednesday, is expected to facilitate Softbank’s plan to expand advanced wireless offerings throughout the U.S. via the Sprint network and thereby enhance Sprint’s competitive position against market leaders Verizon Wireless and AT&T. The spectrum assets covered by Wednesday’s deal encompass key markets in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio as well as 585,000 subscribers that comprise a ten percent share of the US Cellular customer base. A spokesman for US Cellular, which continues to provide wireless service in portions of the Pacific Midwest, New England, the Eastern seaboard and other Midwestern states, noted that the deal will permit the company to focus on its strongest markets. Contingent upon receipt of FCC, Justice Department and other regulatory approvals, the parties hope to complete the transaction by mid-2013.