As the second-largest mobile carrier in the United States, the AT&T network serves more than 130 million subscribers across the country. Started as Cingular Wireless in 2000, the company adopted the AT&T name in mid-2007. As a major US carrier, their leading competitors are Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile.
AT&T offers both prepaid and postpaid services. Postpaid plans currently range from $50 to $200 per month for a single line of service. Prepaid plans currently range from $25 to $55 per month for a single line of service.
If you need a phone, their Next program offers device financing. Want to bring your own phone? You’ll find support for most unlocked 3G/4G phones.
Does This Carrier Fit My Needs?
- No-contract plans available
- Bring your own device plans
- Phone financing
- Unlimited messaging
- Worry-free data plans
- Coast-to-coast calling on all plans
- Depending on your usage, costs are high compared to many smaller carriers
- Multiple lines are required to get the best rates
Worry-Free Data: Providing a set amount of high-speed 4G data, these plans fall back to 2G speeds when you’ve reached your bandwidth limit instead of charging costly overage fees.
Data Rollover: Many plans include one month of data rollover for added flexibility in using your mobile phone.
Multi-line plans: As one of the few carriers to offer multi-line discounts on both postpaid and prepaid accounts, AT&T is ideal for families looking for multiple phones.
Unlimited Talk and Text: Many plans include unlimited minutes and text in the US.
Awards and Recognitions
How is the Network Coverage and Speed?
According to their website, the AT&T network covers 99% of American’s in the continental US, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
Data from OpenSignal breaks down network types as follows:
- 70% LTE (4G)
- 22% HSPA+ (4G)
- 7% HSPA (3G)
You can check coverage and network types in your area at their support page.
In the 2016 “Fastest Mobile Networks” study, AT&T ranked third. Average national LTE download speeds measured at 19.01Mbits per second and uploads measured at 9.18Mbits per second.
Additional data from OpenSignal shows average 4G download and upload rates of 8 and 5.1Mbits per second. 3G data was significantly slower at 1.8Mbits per second for downloads and 0.7Mbits per second for uploads.
Do They Charge Roaming Fees?
While coverage on the network within the US is good, there may be times where you need to use another carrier’s network. According to the Wireless Customer Agreement, allowances are as follows:
- Voice usage may incur charges or penalties if you exceed the lesser of 750 minutes or 40% of your Anytime Minutes across two months.
- Data usage may incur charges of penalties if you exceed the lesser 24MB or 20% of the KB included on your monthly plan across two months.
- Messaging may incur charges or penalties if you exceed the lesser of 3,000 messages or 50% of your included monthly message allotment across a period of two months.
If you’re traveling outside the US, roaming charges will apply. To help manage costs, you can purchase an AT&T Passport add-on. These bundles cost between $40 and $120 and are good for up to one month.
- Unlimited texting
- Reduced per-minute rates
- Up to 800MB of roaming data
Pay-per-use rates vary by location and serviced used. Common rates include:
- Voice: $1.00 to $3.00 per minute depending on location
- Text: $0.50
- Multimedia Message: $1.30
- Data: $2.05 to $10.24 per MB
For full details and current offers, consult their support page.
Do They Charge Long Distance Fees?
All of the prepaid and postpaid plans with this carrier include calling to any number in the United States.
Mobile Share Advantage plans also extend calling and messaging ranges. For these plans, texting anywhere in the world is included with your monthly message allotment.
For plans with 10GB of data or more, calls to Canada and Mexico are included as well.
Pay-per-use rates for international calls vary by country. However, if you plan to place international calls often, the World Connect Value add-on will help tremendously.
For $5 per month, this add-on unlocks reduced per-minute rates to landlines and mobile numbers in more than 225 countries. If you call for even 10 minutes to another country, the add-on could pay for itself in savings.
If you frequently call East Asia or India, a separate World Connect Value plan for $15 per month unlocks unlimited calling to China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore and South Korea.
You can find more about specific calling rates and options on their support page.
Can I Tether My Phone?
This will depend on the data plan that you choose. Many of the lower-tier plans do not allow tethering according to the Wireless Customer Agreement.
Even on plans with tethering included, they note:
“If you use a Mobile Share plan with any device that is not a Designated Data Device, for tethering or as a mobile hotspot with more than five (5) simultaneous users, or otherwise use the plan in any way that is inconsistent with its terms, you agree that AT&T may: (a) suspend or terminate service to the account; (b) place any non-complying Device on an appropriate Mobile Share plan; and/or (c) add any other required element of the plan.”
Keep in mind that non-mobile devices--such as PCs or gaming consoles--will use data much quicker than the typical smartphone. If you tether, monitor usage carefully to avoid added fees.
Can I Rollover Unused Data?
Many of the shared data plans include one month of data rollover allowing you to carry unused data from one month into the next.
However, rollover will not apply to any additional data purchased outside the monthly plan and any data rolled over expires after one month.
What Add-ons or Bundles are Available?
All plans offer a standard set of features, including voicemail, call-waiting, free cloud storage and access to AT&T apps for managing usage and account features.
Additional add-ons include:
- Phone insurance
- Data-only plans for tablets or Wi-Fi hotspots
- Roadside assistance
- MicroCell Calling
Can I Bring My Own Device?
Yes! Most unlocked GSM phones will work with this carrier.
- The phone must be unlocked
- The phone must not be on the IMEI blacklist
- The phone must support a SIM
You can find full details on what to expect and if your device is supported at their Bring Your Own Phone page.
Does This Carrier Require a Credit Check?
There are no credit checks for prepaid service. However, monthly service agreements may require a credit check. At the time of writing, this is a "hard" credit check. This means the check will likely appear on your credit report.
To run the credit check, the carrier will need:
- Your name
- Current address
In some cases, a government-issued ID--such as a Driver's License, State Identification Card or Passport--is required as well.
NOTE: Credit checks from carriers that pull your credit bureau report may impact your credit score. If you're not sure the best options for your credit profile, we suggest contacting the carrier directly before attempting to obtain service.
For more information on credit check requirements and how they might affect your account, consult the Things to Know About Our Credit Check Policy post on their community forums.
Do They Charge an Early Termination Fee?
If you are on a term contract and outside the initial 14 days of purchase, an early termination fee is likely. In the Wireless Customer Agreement, AT&T says:
“After the first 14 days, you may terminate your Agreement for any reason. However, you agree to pay AT&T for all fees, charges, and other amounts incurred and owed under your Agreement along with the applicable ETF. The Early Termination Fee is either: (a) $325 or (b) $150. The ETF reduces each full month of your Service Commitment that you complete. To determine whether your Equipment has a $325 Early Termination Fee or a $150 Early Termination Fee, and the amount of reduction, check att.com/equipmentETF.
After your Service Commitment ends and you are on a month-to-month Agreement, you may terminate your Agreement at any time with 30 days notice without incurring an ETF.”
Can I Port My Number To or From AT&T?
Yes! Both landline and wireless numbers might be eligible for transfer.
General requirements include:
- The account from which you wish to transfer the number must be active and in good standing
- You must be able to provide the current account number, name of the account holder, PIN or password and billing address of the account to complete the transfer.
The process can take between 1 hour and 5 days to complete depending on your situation.
For more information and to check eligibility, consult the Transfer Your Number to AT&T tool.
Will They Unlock My Phone?
Yes! They will unlock phones at no cost. Requirements include:
- You must be a current or former customer
- The phone must be locked to the AT&T network
- Postpaid accounts must be active for at least 60 days and in good standing
- Prepaid accounts must be active for at least six months
- The phone must not be on the IMEI blacklist
- All terms and conditions to your contract must be met before unlocking
To start the unlock process, fill out an online Device Unlock Request. In most cases, unlocking takes less than 48 business hours.
For other questions about pricing, features and coverage, be sure to check our AT&T Q&A Forum. It’s filled with questions and answers from people like you looking to get the most out of their mobile service!
If you spot any errors or missing information, please let us know, it's definitely appreciated and will help make this page better for everyone.