AT&T just announced that it will expand 5G connectivity to customers with older unlimited plans for free starting this month.
Before today, if you bought a 5G phone—say, an iPhone 12—and wanted to activate it on AT&T’s 5G network, you had to upgrade to one of the carrier’s newest unlimited plans (AT&T Unlimited Starter, Unlimited Extra, and Unlimited Elite). Those plans include the ability to take advantage of AT&T’s ultra-fast millimeter wave-based 5G network, which the company indicates with a 5G+ icon, as opposed to regular 5G, which is slower than 5G+, and 5G E, which isn’t 5G at all. That’s good, because having to change your unlimited plan to a different unlimited plan just to tap into 5G makes no sense.
While it’s hard to say precisely when a specific customer will get the upgrade to 5G, AT&T says it will send a text to people notifying them when 5G gets added to their plan. That said, it’s important to remember that people will already need to have a 5G-capable device and be located within in area covered by AT&T’s 5G network.
Following the addition of 5G to older unlimited consumer plans, AT&T will also expand 5G support to older unlimited business plans starting in April.
While AT&T adding 5G support to older plans might seem like a small favor to folks on older plans, the move almost seems like a shot at Verizon, who earlier this week announced that it will exclude customers on its less expensive metered and unlimited plans from accessing its mmWave 5G or 5G based on Verizon’s newly purchased C-band spectrum.
Currently, it’s unclear whether AT&T will throttle 5G data after a certain point on those older unlimited plans, as they originally did not include pricing for 5G. Gizmodo has reached out to AT&T for clarification, and we will update the story if we hear back.