AT&T advocated for new legislation that would help it invest more in new technologies instead of the traditional landline. Then in a separate announcement, T-Mobile said it launched its high-speed network and will open about 1,000 stores nationwide this year, including 40 in Chicago and the suburbs.
About 25 T-Mobile stores have already opened this year and the rest are expected later this year in the suburbs. Stores will open soon in Aurora, Bartlett, Fox Lake, Oakbrook Terrace, Yorkville and Waukegan, said Kenya Dunn, T-Mobile area vice president of retail and direct sales, based in Downers Grove.
T-Mobile also has been hiring about 350 local people to staff those stores and work on the network maintenance.
"We're creating a new in-store experience for our customers that includes demos on devices and other options," Dunn said. "As the industry continues to evolve, we're providing a new experience."
At one time, the competitors were looking to unite. T-Mobile and AT&T were in merger talks back in 2011. The $39 billion deal was called off when they faced federal regulators and a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit against AT&T. Now the two carriers, along with others, continue to invest in their separate networks.
"That's why we are supporting new state legislation, and it does not involve a rate increase to consumers and there's no taxpayer subsidy," said Illinois AT&T President Paul La Schiazza. "It upgrades the 4G and LTE networks to 5G technology. It allows for speeds that are faster and will still provide cable to the home at gigabit speeds. It's all because of people's thirst for video."
La Schiazza said about 90 percent of Illinois households are now off the old, traditional landline service and the company is seeking to use the money it ordinarily would use for the old network and instead invest it in new technology. It becomes evident each day, especially when AT&T has been forced at times to scrounge eBay for replacement parts for the old network.
A newer network also will allow consumers, possibly by next year, to send text messages and later video over the 911 system that would be relayed to emergency responders, he said.
La Schiazza said SB1381 and HB2691, known as the Illinois Telecom Modernization law, could add more jobs in Illinois for the build out of the newer network and offer higher speeds so consumers could download video in the blink of an eye, instead of 30 seconds or so.
"We don't want to continue spending money on old technology when that money can be used for a more modern network and what consumers want," he said.