PROS / AT&T’s network is strong and reliable, a close second behind Verizon with great coverage and quality.
CONS / It’s the most expensive mobile broadband provider in the nation.
VERDICT / Unless you’re already a customer, there’s no reason to choose AT&T. It has great connectivity, but you can pay less elsewhere and get the same or better service.
AT&T is a big name in the cell phone business and for good reason. It has a top-tier 4G network and quality LTE speeds, and it is recognized nationwide as being second only to Verizon for coverage and dependability. But AT&T also has the most expensive mobile internet in the industry, $10 more every month than Verizon and over twice the cost of T-Mobile. If you’re already an AT&T customer and just want to tack a mobile broadband plan onto your monthly bill, the company’s network won’t disappoint. Otherwise, you’re better off with one of the options higher on our lineup.
AT&T has two plans under $100: a 2GB option that costs $50 a month and a 5GB option for $70. Both of them are more expensive than every other provider we reviewed. There are a number of 15GB plus plans, including options that go up to 50GB and beyond, but they’re all just as pricey. In some cases they costs $40 more than Verizon and U.S. Cellular, the only other carriers that have such massive data tiers.
The company’s fee schedule can sting as much as its plans. Activating a new internet device on AT&T’s network can see as much as $45 added to your first bill, and that doesn’t include the price of the actual portable hotspot. If you buy from AT&T and then choose to return your hotspot, you’re responsible for a $35 restocking fee. And should you buy under contract with AT&T to reduce the hotspot’s up-front price, only to cancel service, you’ll be responsible for an early termination fee of up to $150.
AT&T doesn’t sell USB dongles, which are often cheaper than hotspots and great if you only want mobile broadband for your laptop. If you’re in the market for one, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Despite playing second fiddle to Verizon for the last decade, AT&T has done a fine job of improving its network quality and reliability. The fact that it licenses its network to other providers is only a win for customers, since you can access that great network without spending carrier prices. But a win for AT&T’s partners is a loss for AT&T itself. When you can connect to the same network for a fraction of the price – or pick Verizon and pay less money for even better service – there’s no reason to choose Big Blue. Current customers needn’t switch away from AT&T, but if you’re free to go anywhere, there are far better options available.