No-contract wireless plans are getting a lot of attention lately, now that we have unlocked Android smartphones that support LTE networks in the US. I recently purchased the unlocked HTC One Developer Edition and I paired it with a T-Mobile Simple Choice plan, but I also wanted to test the device on AT&T. I have seen a lot of confusion over whether or not AT&T offers LTE service without a contract, so I visited a local retail store to set the record straight.
AT&T does offer pre-paid smartphone plans under their GoPhone brand, but they cannot access LTE. GoPhone plans are limited to HSPA+, and the most data you can get is 1GB for $65 per month. Most no-contract plans will offer 2-5GB for $50 or less, so this is not exactly the best deal.
If you want to access LTE on AT&T without a contract, then you can pick an individual plan or a Mobile Share plan and go with month-to-month service instead of signing up for a 2-year contract. The prices for month-to-month are exactly the same as if you had signed a contract, so you will be paying the built in subsidy that would normally cover your device. That means there is no discount for bringing your own phone, but it’s better than nothing if you want to access AT&T LTE.
For testing purposes, I signed up for the AT&T Mobile Share plan with 4GB of data. The monthly recurring cost before taxes is $110, which happens to be close to the $120 per month we pay T-Mobile for two lines with unlimited talk, text, and truly unlimited LTE data. With the one-time $36 activation fee and government fees and taxes, my first AT&T bill was $176.46.
It’s good to know that unlocked fans can still get AT&T LTE without a contract, but they might be paying double what T-Mobile charges. Of course AT&T’s LTE network is quite large, and T-Mobile only covers seven markets right now. Depending where you live and how much you are willing to pay, either carrier could be a viable choice for you.