Everything you need to know about AT&T Wireless


Oct 2, 2020 — 5 min read

White AT&T logo on blue background

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  • AT&T has the fastest data speeds according to OpenSignal and Ookla
  • Worst customer service scores of any major wireless carrier
  • 5G access available with all AT&T Unlimited Wireless plans
  • Excellent military discounts

AT&T has more than 171 million customers in the U.S., making it one of the biggest and most competitive providers in the country. There are three unlimited data plans to choose from, but the prices are fairly competitive. Out of the big three carriers, you’ll pay less than Verizon, but more than T-Mobile — especially if you’re on a family plan. 

As with other carriers, AT&T drops prices per line as you add more lines to your account. There are also additional discounts for nurses, teachers, first responders, new customers and those who bundle with an AT&T internet plan. That said, AT&T is also the only one of the big three carriers that limits 5G access to its most expensive plan.

AT&T deals for existing customers

AT&T offers free HBO Max with its most expensive plan, plus heavy discounts for military and other professions.

Free HBO Max

AT&T has one of the best streaming promotions of any wireless carrier: HBO Max is included in all Unlimited Elite plans, even if you just have a single line on a compatible device. The deal is offered to new AT&T customers and existing customer plan upgrades. You are responsible for creating your own account on the HBO Max app, and you will lose service if you cancel your AT&T mobile plan. 

Discounts for teachers, nurses, physicians and first responders

Certain professionals also receive discounts with proof of eligibility. Approved applicants will get $10/mo. off each line on the Unlimited Elite plan ($75/mo. for one line compared to the regular price of $85/mo.). You can confirm your eligibility through paystubs, official ID or other approved documents. Credits appear within three months of signing up for service. 

Military and first responder discounts

AT&T takes the discounts a step further for members of the military and veterans. All you’ll need to take advantage of it is a “.mil” email address or a valid form of ID. Here’s how much the discounts compare for one line.

What’s more, all plans that get the military discount will have access to AT&T’s 5G network, whereas it’s only available on the Unlimited Elite plan for everyone else. 

AT&T Signature Program

In addition to AT&T’s discounts for teachers, nurses, physicians, military and first responders, the carrier also offers discounts to many employers, schools and organizations. To see if you qualify, just enter your email address here

AT&T coverage

AT&T provides the fastest download speeds in most third-party tests, but its availability isn’t as strong as Verizon’s.

There are a handful of monitoring services that test each wireless carrier’s networks, and they generally put AT&T in the middle of the pack. AT&T’s coverage is the Download Speed Experience leader, according to OpenSignal, but it’s behind Verizon when it comes to coverage and availability. Ookla’s Speedtest tells a similar story, with AT&T coverage nabbing the fastest Speed Score™, but the lowest 4G availability. 

RootMetrics puts AT&T in second place behind Verizon for nearly every category in its most recent round of testing, including network reliability, network speed, data performance and call performance. 

The one group AT&T does not fare well with is the readers at Consumer Reports. Why is the difference between Consumer Reports’ evaluation and everyone else’s? Consumer Reports’ score is based entirely off its readers’ responses, while OpenSignal, RootMetrics and Ookla do their own testing and analysis. These differing methodologies leave room for some discrepancies between technical performance and customer experience. 

In short, you can expect great internet speed when you’re connected to AT&T’s network, but you might have more trouble connecting to it than with Verizon or T-Mobile. Be sure to check its coverage map before switching to AT&T

How is AT&T’s 5G network?

AT&T currently offers 5G network access for both consumers and businesses in 47 states. The company continues to expand the number of cities where the faster network speeds are available to customers. 

AT&T 5G was rated Best Network based on GWS OneScore in September 2019, but OpenSignal notes that the company does not have the fastest speeds because it primarily relies on low-band spectrum that was repurposed from 4G service. It’s available to 9.7% of users in the U.S. compared to 19.8% for T-Mobile and 0.5% for Verizon. 

However, AT&T’s 5G network still offers good coverage and 850Mhz capabilities for customers who can access it.

How does AT&T compare to other wireless providers?

AT&T is generally very affordable with decent coverage, but you may sacrifice some customer satisfaction for the price drop.

You won’t find better deals than AT&T with most competitors, and HBO Max might be an appealing lure for those who want to cut their cable costs (or go full streaming). You’ll pay well below sticker price for the most popular devices, including the iPhone

However, customer satisfaction with AT&T yields mixed results. The company received a 74/100 in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (on par with Verizon and better than Sprint), but (as mentioned above) it has a Poor rating with Consumer Affairs.

AT&T received 793/1,000 from J.D. Power’s survey of customers who have called the company in the last three months (the average score is 805). 

AT&T wireless customer service

AT&T Wireless FAQs

Can I bring my phone number to AT&T?

Yes. You can bring your phone number to AT&T. The company requires you to provide your name and other verifying details about your current account, your current mobile account number and you will need to get an AT&T SIM if you’re transferring from another carrier. Your number should port over within three hours. 

Is AT&T available in my area?

AT&T Wireless is available in all 50 states. Their coverage map makes it easier to see if you will have solid coverage where you live. You can also enter an exact address on the map for more detailed information. 

Can I return a phone to AT&T if I don’t like it?

You can return your phone for a full refund within 14 days of purchase, but you may have to pay a restocking fee up to $55. Apple devices will have the restocking fee waived if the box is unopened.

Should I switch to AT&T Wireless?

If you’re on a budget and enjoy frequent phone upgrades, AT&T may be the best option in your quest for a mobile carrier. You’ll score serious deals as a new customer and save over major competitors when you add a new line. 

For customers who frequently find themselves calling their carrier for assistance or who need faster 5G, Verizon or T-Mobile may be the right choice. 

By Lara Vukelich