AT&T announces $7 monthly add-on fee for “Turbo” 5G speeds

A pedestrian walks past a large AT&T logo on the glass exterior of an AT&T store.

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AT&T is now charging mobile customers an extra $7 per month for faster wireless data speeds. AT&T says the Turbo add-on, available starting today, is “built to support high-performance mobile applications, like gaming, social video broadcasting and live video conferencing, with optimized data while customers are on the go.”

While Turbo “boosts all the high-speed and hotspot data on a user’s connection,” AT&T said the difference will be more noticeable for certain kinds of applications. For example, gaming applications using Turbo will experience “less freezing or stuttering and lower latency,” AT&T said.

The $7 charge is for each line. Adding Turbo to multiple lines on the same account requires paying the extra fee for each line. AT&T said that Turbo lets users “optimize their plan’s high-speed (premium) and hotspot data allotments” and provides better data performance “even during busy times on the network.”

Turbo is only available for 5G phones on certain “unlimited” plans. AT&T notes that “Turbo does not provide extra data” and that “if you exceed your existing allotments your normal network management applies.”

“On AT&T Unlimited Extra EL after 75GB, AT&T may temporarily slow data speeds if the network is busy,” the company says. “On each eligible plan, after you exceed your hotspot allotment, your hotspot speeds are slowed to a maximum of 128Kbps.”

People who pay extra for Turbo might want to look at their video settings. By default, AT&T limits video streaming to DVD quality, but customers can turn on high-definition video at the expense of using more data.

Quality of service

An article by The Mobile Report said that AT&T will differentiate between users who pay for Turbo and those who don’t with Quality of Service Class Identifiers, or QCIs. “We’re told that, basically, all eligible plans are now moved to QCI 8, and get the privilege of buying their way back into QCI 7,” the article said. QCI 6 is reportedly reserved for public safety professionals on the FirstNet service built by AT&T under a government contract.

We asked AT&T if that is accurate and for technical details on how Turbo is being implemented. We’ll update this article if the carrier provides more information.

According to Light Reading, an AT&T official confirmed that Turbo will use QCI. “Setting QCI levels is not like changing a radio channel,” the AT&T official was quoted as saying. “It includes advanced and complex technologies that enhance the experience. We monitor network performance over time and may adjust QCI levels in response.”

The current version of Turbo may be followed by other paid extras that enhance performance, as AT&T called it the “first step in modernizing and preparing our mobile network for future innovative use cases… Latency-sensitive applications will continue to need more enhanced network technologies to perform their best, so we plan to continue to advance and evolve AT&T Turbo.”

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